The operators of the Gautrain rapid rail system are to approach the high court for an urgent interdict to force the City of Tshwane to restore water and electricity services to the Hatfield Gautrain Station after these services were allegedly wrongly terminated by the municipality.
The Sheraton Hotel, K Carrim Commercial Properties, the owners of Centurion Club Crossing shopping centre in Clubview, and other companies have reportedly already served papers on the city to challenge the disconnection of services at their premises.
Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager said on Tuesday the termination of water and electricity services at the station has not disrupted the Gautrain service to passengers.
“We have generators that are operating so the station is fully operational, trains, buses, midi buses to and from Hatfield Station are fully operational so no impact on passengers,” she said.
Nayager said officials from the City of Tshwane on Monday, without any prior notice, cut off water supply to the Hatfield Gautrain Station.
She said the city claimed it is owed about R10 million for services rendered to the station, and on Tuesday afternoon also cut off electricity supply to the station.
Accounts ‘up to date’
She said the Hatfield station has a pre-paid electricity meter and the account is “not only up to date but is in fact in credit to the value of approximately R120 000”.
“The water account is similarly up to date,” she said.
Nayager said they have been trying without success to contact the City of Tshwane to provide proof of the debt it claims it is owed.
“Last night [Monday], the City’s Divisional Head for Revenue Management shared a screengrab with us which reflects an account number that differs from the account number reflected on the notice to terminate services.
“The City has therefore illegally cut off services to the station,” she said.
Nayager added that based on information shared with staff at the station on Tuesday morning, it appears that the screengrab sent to them on Monday night may relate to rates and taxes.
Property now part of ‘public transport project’
However, Nayager said the properties upon which Gautrain stations are built have been acquired by the Gauteng Provincial Government as a public transport project in terms of Section 11 of the Gauteng Transport Infrastructure Act of 2001.
Nayager said the provincial government proclaimed the necessary land rights to build and operate the Gautrain railway line over this property and it therefore constitutes public transport infrastructure for the purposes of rates and taxes.
“Given that the water and electricity accounts for the station are paid in full and are up to date, we are calling on the City to urgently reconnect the water and electricity supply to Hatfield station and to avail itself to meet so that we can obtain a full statement of account rather than a screengrab and have this matter settled as soon as possible.
“In the meantime, we will be approaching the court to urgently interdict the City to restore services to the station given its wrongful termination of services to Hatfield station,” she said.
Attempts to obtain comment from the City of Tshwane were unsuccessful.
City of Tshwane divisional head of strategic communication Selby Bokaba did not respond to an email request for comment on the Gautrain dispute and also did not answer his cellphone.
The City of Tshwane earlier on Tuesday posted a tweet in which it claimed the Gautrain “owe us R10 million” and “last paid their account in 2020”.
City’s ‘aggressive and unprecedented revenue-collection campaign’
The disconnection of services to the Hatfield Gautrain Station follows the City of Tshwane late last week announcing that senior officials, led by acting city manager Mmaseabata Mutlaneng, had embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented revenue-collection campaign by disconnecting services to customers whose accounts have been in arrears for more than three months.
The city said its debtor’s book – mainly from government departments, embassies, businesses, residential customers and entities that do not pay for municipal services – currently stands at over R17 billion.
“This debt makes it difficult for the City to fulfil its obligation of delivering essential and basic services to Tshwane residents and its customers,” it said.
“After making a series of impassioned pleas to customers to honour their municipal accounts by paying them on time and in full that fell on deaf ears, the City swiftly embarked on a campaign to recoup debt owed to it by its customers by disconnecting water and electricity services to government departments, mainly the buildings under the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development and businesses in the Pretoria CBD, Sunnyside and parts of Centurion.”
The city said the arrears are on property rates, water and electricity services.
It claimed residential customers owe the city about R8 billion, businesses R4 billion, with the remainder of the outstanding amount that makes up the R17 billion of debt owed by government departments, entities and embassies.
“The City is also in the process of attaching bank accounts of certain entities in a concerted effort to recoup monies owed to the City, which monies would go a long way to fast-track projects aimed at improving service delivery,” it said.
The Gautrain is operated by the Bombela Concession Company (BCC), the special purpose vehicle established for the design, partial financing, delivery, operation and maintenance of the Gautrain.
The BBC holds the 15-year concession for operating and maintaining the Gautrain.
JSE-listed multinational engineering and construction company Murray & Roberts (M&R) has a 50% shareholding in the BCC.
The remaining shareholding is owned by broad-based black economic empowerment company Strategic Partners Group (38%) and Calshelf, part of the empowered J&J Group (12%).