Tembisa NPOs struggle to pay municipal bills

Kgaugelo Stimulation Centre’s Lina Mabaso is scared that Tembisa NPOs will experience another calamity like the Life Esidimeni one.

The City of Ekurhuleni (CoE) seems determined to make life difficult for non-profit organisations (NPO) operating in Tembisa.Tembisa Self Help Association of the Disabled (T-Shad) is one such NPO.

T-Shad centre manager Calvin Stemela said the metro cut off their electricity on February 28 despite the plight faced by people living with disabilities.

“We received a notice from the municipality demanding R113 000. We failed to pay the money because we have no other source of income other than recycling. There was no income after the CoE cut off our electricity. The recycling machines we use need electricity to operate,” said Stemela.

He said in March the centre paid R15 000 in separate payments but the metro demanded that T-Shad pay the outstanding amount of R113 000 in full.

“We are a non-profit organisation under the Department of Social Development and we depend solely on grants. There are 65 beneficiaries who come here daily to eat and take their medication.

“Some of these medications need to be kept in the fridge but we could not refrigerate those medications. We get nutrition money from the Department of Social Development to feed these desperate beneficiaries.

When the CoE cut off electricity at Kgaugelo Stimulation Centre Lina Mabaso was forced to use gas to heat the centre’s rooms even though it was not safe for the children’s health.

“We had to throw away a lot of the food we bought because it had gone bad due to fridges that were not on,” Stemela lamented.

He said they had to use the rotten food as compost and subsequently they could not buy any more food in bulk as they did not have cold storage.

Stemela added that staff members were forced to take home medication that needed refrigeration to put them in their own fridges and bring them back the following day.

“To cook the little food we bought we are forced to create a wood fire outside and use some of the food money to buy gas for other needs.

The centre also minds children living with disabilities whose parents are away for work during the day. T-Shad provides computer programmes for these children and the youth at large.

Everything became dysfunctional and all those programmes came to a standstill.

Stemela said they are crying out to the business community to assist T-Shad to settle the debt.

He said the refusal of the Ekurhuleni municipality to deregister the stand on which T-Shad operates as a business has seen the centre incur an ever-escalating debt which can never be afforded by an NPO.

“Since T-Shad’s inception, we have been an NPO, not a business. When we make them aware of this fact and seek to rectify the matter we are sent from pillar to post.

“They don’t give us the reason why the municipality is refusing to register T-Shad’s stand as an NPO property,” explained Stemela.

When The Tembisan contacted the CoE with a list of allegations, they said T-Shad defaulted on payment arrangements made which resulted in their electricity being cut off.

T-Shad manager Calvin Stemela (front row third from left) with the T-Shad executive board.

Themba Gadebe, metro spokesperson, said: “The CoE has rectified the business tariffs that was charged to T-Shad to the tariffs applicable to NGOs. However, T-Shad’s certificate with council has expired, so they need to re-apply for the certificate and their rebates.

“The reason they remain disconnected is that of non-payment in terms of the payment arrangement with us.”

Tembisa Co-ordinated Welfare Organisation (TCWO) at stand 457/11, Kopanong Section, is in the same boat. The CoE demands over a million rand from this NPO or they face an electricity cut off.

The good Samaritans who run these organisations say the CoE will stop at nothing to destroy these organisations until they witness another Life Esidimeni catastrophe in Tembisa.

Kgaugelo Stimulation Centre is an organisation that deals with severe and profound cases of small children living with disabilities.

During February, their electricity was cut off for about three weeks with the CoE demanding a payment of more than R800 000 before it could reconnect electricity for the children.

“I enquired and I was told Kgaugelo owed R23 400 on its own bill. As an NPO we are helping the community but we struggle with rent on a government-owned yard.

Kgaugelo Stimulation Centre’s Lina Mabaso with vegetables that feeds the children.

“Municipal services are expensive for NPOs,” said Kgaugelo Stimulation Centre’s Lina Mabaso.

Grace Mthethwa of Tembisa Integrated Community Home-based Care, an organisation looking after orphaned children, said they depend on R650 allocated for electricity needs from the Department of Social Development.

“We won’t be able to raise the millions demanded by the City of Ekurhuleni.

“We are not saying we don’t want to pay but the social development department only gives us R650 for electricity and we cannot afford the monthly payments of R1 300.”

An enquiry into these concerns was sent, together with T-Shad’s enquiry, but the city failed to provide a detailed response to the plight of all NPOs operating in Tembisa.

Following the media enquiry, the CoE switched on electricity at T-Shad but no one knows how long it will take until the city cuts off electricity again.

  AUTHOR
Jantji Ngwenyama
Journalist

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