Recent news has developed in Johannesburg over the last few months. It has come to light, through inquiry on the part of the Democratic Alliance, that the City of Johannesburg is illegally collecting on debts that until this point have been outstanding.
The City of Johannesburg has been extending debt collection on arrears older than 3 years, which was declared illegal by changes made to the Consumer Protection Act in March this year. Arrears attached to properties, which can include non-payment on utilities, that are older than 3 years should be dropped. Debt collection processes instigated by the City has led to debt agreements that many residents are unable to pay. Some are still expected to pay on interest on settled debt and instances whereby a clearance certificates were issued.
The City declares that all debts linked to the property are still able to be pursued though, and that the City is attempting to prevent the act of illegally consumed utilities; and action that has led to millions of rands worth in uncollected debt in Johannesburg. It is quite obvious that the various acts need to be revisited and reviewed if there is to be any more clarity regarding the matter.
This also comes at a time when recent statistical reports indicate that not only is South Africa in significant debt, but its occupants are experiencing more debt as unemployment is up to 35%. What may also contribute to the non-payment of utilities is the fact that the delivery of services has gone up from 50% to 56% percent, increasing the number of individuals’ access to electricity, of which many do not pay.