Government has threatened as a “last resort” to cut the supply of water to at least 30 municipalities which have water debts running into billions of rand.
The department of water and sanitation said on Wednesday that it had a total outstanding water debt of R10.7-billion‚ with 73% of this outstanding for longer than 60 days.
Despite efforts to recover the money‚ debt levels continue to rise.
“This debt is owed by municipalities‚ despite (legislation) that obliges municipalities to pay for bulk services within sixty days of receiving the relevant invoice or statement‚” said a statement by the department.
The municipalities – which are yet to be named – will be cut off unless their debts are settled by December 8.
Efforts to recover the money included “stakeholder consultations” and taking legal action.
“These processes were initiated as early as two years ago and to this end 6 court judgments have been issued in favour of the department‚ 59 court summons’ have also been issued and another 121 municipalities are involved in legal collection processes. Despite all these interventions‚ the water debt at municipal level continues to escalate‚” said the department.
The department said it was implementing a section of the National Water Act that allowed it to restrict or suspend the flow of water to defaulting municipalities.
“The department is implementing this sanction as a last resort‚ while it is simultaneously engaging the National Treasury on invoking Section 216(2) of the Constitution of South Africa‚ which enables the National Treasury to withhold the equitable share of grant funding that are to be paid to municipalities due to the persistent breach of the Municipal Finance Management Act.”