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CoJ says it is reviewing that R200 prepaid electricity surcharge

  • Despite being adamant that the R200 surcharge for prepaid users was vital, the City of Johannesburg looks to be changing its mind.
  • MMC for Finance, Dada Morero said the surcharge will be reviewed.
  • How long this process will take is unclear at this stage.

Last week City of Johannesburg residents were shocked when they were charged a R200 (ex VAT) fee when purchasing prepaid electricity. Essentially, users who loaded up R500 would see R200 reserved for this fee with only R300 used to top up their electricity meter.

Despite an outcry from residents and the Democratic Alliance, executive mayor Kabelo Gwamanda was adamant the fee would remain in place, going so far as to label DA councillors who opposed the fee “stooges”.

The R200 fee is not payable by households classified as indigent where the household earns below R6 000 or faces other financial challenges. How many households are registered as indigent is unclear.

Now it appears as if the official tune has changed.

During a special council meeting on Tuesday, MMC for finance, Dada Morero said that the R200 surcharge will be reviewed.

“We are willing to enter a process to look at this availability charge and its impact on residents, and undergo a process to review this amount,” the MMC said.

A spokesperson told Daily Maverick that the MMC’s comments are aligned with Gwamanda “as they speaking in one voice”.

While we commend CoJ for rethinking this fee, perhaps the executive should be more cautious in the statements it makes. Last week’s statement from Gwamanda made it seem preposterous that residents would dare question the executive’s decision, going so far as to drag the DA for “attempting to subvert Council decisions”.

The DA’s Nicole Van Dyk last week said that the City shouldn’t be leaning on residents to pay the debt it has amassed over the years.

“City Power is currently sitting with a R40 billion overdraft because they are dealing with non-payers. Prepaid is a great incentive to get your money upfront, but now you’re penalizing those people who are paying upfront for the power they are going to be using,” Van Dyk said.

On Tuesday CoJ tabled a R2.5 billion loan for consideration by the council. This was rejected and DA caucus leader Belinda Kayser-Echeozonjoku welcomed the rejection saying that the local government should explore other avenues before taking on more debt.

“It is clear that this loan is an attempt by the executive to place a bandage over the gaping self-inflicted wound that is the City’s finances. The DA will not be party to desperate decision making. We urge the City to come clean on the state of the city’s finances and hold officials to account for the loss in revenue in city owned entities. Our goal will remain good governance and effective management of the City’s entities,” said Kayser-Echeozonjoku.

How long it will take CoJ to review this R200 fee is unclear but residents may want to continue factoring it into their budget for the foreseeable future at least.

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