The City of Joburg is set to write off R11.7 billion of its R13.1 billion arrears through a new debt relief programme launched this week and approved by all political parties. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
The City of Joburg is set to write off R11.7 billion of its R13.1 billion arrears through a new debt relief programme launched this week and approved by all political parties. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

City of Joburg to write off R11.7 billion debt of residents in arrears

By Anna Cox Time of article published Apr 30, 2021

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Johannesburg - The City of Joburg is set to write off R11.7 billion of its R13.1 billion arrears through a new debt relief programme launched this week and approved by all political parties.

Residents who are in arrears, and who meet certain criteria, can now apply to have their debts written off under certain conditions.

The new relief measures include an increase of the qualifying property value from R600 000 to R1.5 million – following calls from residents to review the terms and conditions of the initial relief programme which was first launched in 2019.

The programme, aimed at affording amnesty to property owners whose municipal accounts are in arrears, is set to come into effect from May 1 when they can apply for the relief programme. Residents have until July 31 to apply to be part of the programme.

Its new relief measures have also been extended to benefit small businesses, places of worship and NPOs with a gross revenue income of not more than R3 million.

City of Joburg Mayco member for finance Jolidee Matongo said the improved programme would see qualifying ratepayers receive immediate relief through a 50% debt write-off – with a further write–off on the outstanding debt over a three-year period for those who comply with the conditions of the relief programme.

The primary conditions specify that ratepayers must pay their current accounts on time and the agreed amounts, and allow for regular inspection of metered services and the installation of smart meters where required.

“The revamped debt rehabilitation programme, which grants amnesty for accounts in arrears, is available for a limited period. The city, therefore, encourages qualifying residents and entities, who have been financially strained, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, to take up the offered relief to update their municipal accounts,” said Matongo.

“The main condition is for property owners who have been assisted through the programme to update their municipal accounts to remain compliant throughout the term of their agreements with the city.”

Additionally, where the monthly gross income from all activities from the residential account holder is more than R22 000, a write-off will be offered on condition that the account holder settles the account in full as follows: Monthly gross income from all activities between R22 001 and R30 000 – 30% write-off of the debt above 90 days shall be offered; all interest and penalty charges shall be reversed.

Monthly gross income from all activities between R30 001 and R40 000 – 20% write-off of the debt above 90 days will be offered; all interest and penalty charges shall be reversed.

Monthly gross income from all activities between R40 001 and R50 000 – 10% write-off of the debt above 90 days will be offered; all interest and penalty charges shall be reversed.

Above R50 000, all charges including disconnection fees and interest will be reversed.

The DA in Joburg has welcomed this second phase of what it calls a “DA-initiated debtor rehabilitation programme”, said councillor Chris Santana.

“We developed this programme during our previous administration. Many residents are struggling during the current economic crisis, and this programme will go a long way to alleviating their burden.

“We wanted to help those who were willing to settle their debts, but are unable due to high costs such as the deposit required by the city under the previous system. Many were afraid to engage with this system due to the threat of having their water and electricity cut off if they failed to pay their bill for longer than 90 days.”

“These outstanding bills represent a massive amount that could have been allocated to rescuing the city’s R170bn backlog in repairs, maintenance, and upgrades to the power, water, and road networks, but we realised that getting something is better than nothing.

“Many residents were so heavily in debt that they simply stopped paying. Now they can wipe the slate clean and start paying again and the city can start receiving at least some income,” Santana said.

For more information on the revamped debt rehab programme, see www.joburg.org.za or visit the nearest municipal customer service centre.

The Star

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