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Un-kudos to the City of Tshwane

18 February 2015

Advice to the city fathers (and mothers) of the Great City of Tshwane: when you send out notices to people saying that their light and water accounts must be paid by a certain date, then cut off their electricity three days after the due date, not three days before. This is not rocket science, it is common sense.

A few months ago we said kudos to the City of  Tshwane because of the good things they were doing, saving jacaranda trees and helping residents whose houses had been damaged in hail storms. Now we would like to withdraw some of that kudos.

I’m not sure whether kudos can be quantified like that. Strictly speaking you either have it or you don’t. But this week the City of Tshwane switched off our electricity for several days.

It was another of the good ideas that they had, but this time it went wrong.

Towards the end of last year there was a post office strike, which meant that, among other things, municipal light and water accounts were not delivered. At the end of each month we paid about R1400, which was about the average of earlier accounts that we had received,

The municipality had a good idea: they sent Val and SMS on her cell phone to say that the account needed to be paid by the 19th of February. That bypassed the post office strike. Good thinking.

So on Monday 16th we paid the account, three days before the due date. And on that very day they cut off the electricity for non-payment, three days before the date they had given as the due date. Good thinking, bad implementation.

And though they jumped the gun in cutting off the electricity, they were very slow off the mark in restoring it.

We phoned them, and they said they wanted proof that the account had been paid. Val drove to the nearest Internet cafe, scanned the autoteller receipt and sent it to the e-mail address they gave. Several hours later there was still no electricity. She phoned again. Different bloke answers, Says they haven’t received it, send a photo of the autoteller slip from your cell phone, to a different address this time. Val did so, though the battery on her cell phone was dying. But it seems that the City of Tshwane’s e-mail system doesn’t like attached photos and bounces it back.

Val cooking macaroni & cheese for supper

Val cooking macaroni & cheese for supper

Next morning Val goes back to the Internet cafe, sends copies to both blokes, this time with photos of the slips in zipped files. Also sends it by fax, and goes into the “Customer Care” web site and explains what has happened, and tries to fax it to them as well. The fax number given on the web site is apparently not working. The kudos drops still further.

She gets home and phones them from the landline, and they say that yes, they see that payment has been received, and a technician has been informed to turn the electricity on again. There will be a reconnection fee of R655.00.

Well, I’m typing this the following morning, 18th February. According to the notification sent by the municipality, the account is due to be paid tomorrow. It was paid two days ago, and we still have non electricity. My laptop battery has 24% remaining.

We read in the newspapers that other municipalities, like Johannesburg have problems with the municipal billing system, and that people have been complaining. Up till now we have had no complaints about the City of Tshwane. Yes, we haven’t received accounts for several months, or received them late, but you can’t blame the municipality for a postal strike.

We also read that municipalities and Eskom are owed millions in unpaid electricity accounts.

In the case of the City of Tshwane, at least, I don’t believe it. They are cutting off the electricity before the accounts are due, and must be making a fortune in reconnection fees. They can’t be owed any money, if that is what they are doing to all their customers. Scratch the kudos;. Boo. Hiss.

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