13 March 2020
Dear Mayor Lobese,
On 4 March the KwaNokuthula community staged a protest march over the Municipality’s failure to credit purchasers of pre-paid electricity with their full amount.
In law, they have every right to object to the way they are being treated.
The contending positions are set out in the CXpress of 11 March (p 3).
· RESIDENTS: ‘when they buy electricity vouchers [residents] only receive half the total of units paid for.’
· MUNICIPALITY: ‘when residents fail to pay their accounts, the unpaid money will be recuperated by the municipality when those residents buy electricity.’
Legally the residents are in the right and the Municipality is in the wrong. The governing principle is to be found in the rule of appropriation of payments.
A debtor, in making payment, is entitled to choose the debt that the payment will defray and the choice is binding on the creditor. Lawyers express the principle thus:
‘Where a debtor owes his creditor various sums of money under different obligations and he makes a payment to the creditor which is insufficient to discharge all the debts, the debtor, in the absence of any prior agreement to the contrary, may appropriate the money to any debt he pleases by notifying the creditor to that effect.’ Wille’s Principles of SA Law 8 ed 475.
By paying for electricity, the person specifies that the money they are paying must ALL go towards electricity. The Municipality acts unlawfully by not giving them electricity for the full amount.
In light of this communication, the Ratepayers Association calls upon you to terminate with immediate effect the practice of short-changing purchasers of prepaid electricity. If you fail to do so, the Association will approach the court for relief on a basis of urgency.
You simply cannot continue to inflame tensions in our community. We are threatened with a ‘total shut-down’ in response to your unlawful policy. The solution is simple: recognize that the policy is unlawful and put a stop to it.
Plettenberg Bay Ratepayers’ Association
Cc Bitou Councillors & Municipal Manager