Operation Patala commences in Matjhabeng

A total of seven schools in Odendaalsrus and Kutlwanong that still owe the Matjhabeng Local Municipality thousands of rands in basic services bills, were cut off on Monday as municipal officials demonstrated the urgency of Operation Patala.

Operation Patala was launched by the Matjhabeng Local Municipality last year October to recoup a combined debt of R 1.5 -billion owed by consumers and taxpayers.

Last year municipal manager, German Ramathabane said only 48 percent of residents in the municipality were paying their rates and taxes. Residents, businesses, government agencies and schools were warned several times to settle their current accounts and make arrangements for settlement of arrears or otherwise their services would be terminated.

According to Bongani Mbongo, coordinator of the operation, since Operation Patala was launched there has been a lot of improvement in the payment rate. The initial amount of debt to be collected was R8. 8-million and it has now reduced to R6.7-million. The total collected amount of money collected to date is more than R2-million.

He said the Matjhabeng Local Municipality had set up a Batho Pele Service Centre in the old finance section of the main municipal building in Stateway, Welkom, as well as various Matjhabeng units where residents with outstanding bills are processed.

More municipal officials have also been deployed to assist residents with disconnection and related billing queries.

“The municipality has tried its best to make this a smooth operation, yet we discovered almost 30 water by-passes in Welkom. This is why we as officials came out today to ensure that Operation Patala is handled according to the books so that it can be a success,” said Mbongo.

The manager of the credit control department, acting manager of water demand department and the head of department for public safety and transport joined in the operational visits that were scheduled to continue in Odendaalsrus this week and continue to the other towns in the municipality.

About 200 water meters will be installed where there were none before and where there have been disconnections following the removal of by-passes.

The council envisages installing a new system of water meters throughout the Matjhabeng Local Municipality. It is also addressing the matter of water leakages with the assistance of the department of forestry and water affairs.

An inter-governmental task team will monitor the water lines in Matjhabeng to establish where intervention is critical.

“Residents must remember that, to provide quality services, the municipality needs income generated from, among other, electricity and water. Payment defaulters have put an enormous burden on the municipality’s ability to deliver services such as fixing of roads, streetlights and high mast lights amongst other.

“We have gone out of our way to plead with citizens to play their part but to no avail. We have also implemented our credit control policy which includes letters of demand and other measures to retrieve the payments in arrears. With no desirable outcomes forthcoming, we are switching off,” added Mbongo.

The municipality is also appealing to citizens who qualify for free basic services to register for the indigent registry with their ward councillors. The Indigent registry is a government assistance programme for all South Africans. It comprises 6 kl free water and 50kw free electricity per month.

Ramathebane said they are also investigating the use of water by informal car washes. Car washes that do not have water meters are requested to visit the Matjhabeng finance department.

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