A woman has won a reprieve after an Eastern Cape High Court (East London) judge ruled that a notice to block her prepaid meter for non-payment of rates and taxes was not served on her according to the prescribed by-laws.

The Daily Maverick reports that the court heard an urgent application by the ratepayer, who had been in R50 000 arrears, to reconnect the power to the Zwelitsha house she was renting.

According to court papers, the Buffalo City Municipality blocked the prepaid meter to this house in August 2023.

The homeowner argued that she had not received a pre-termination letter in terms of the municipality’s by-laws.

The municipality claimed the sheriff had delivered the final notice for the pre-disconnection. Sheriff officials said they had placed a copy of the notice in the house’s post box.

However, this was not one of the ways that documents could be served, according to the municipality’s by-laws.

Acting Judge Aaron Zono, noted that there was no equivalent provision in the municipality’s by-laws.

‘In this case, we are dealing with a municipality that not only fails to comply with its own by-laws but is also resisting enforcement of its by-laws. The municipality is placing itself above the law. There is no reason why the municipality cannot be bound by its own by-laws. There is no case made out as to why the by-laws referred to above cannot be enforced.’ 

DM notes that Zono issued a final court order that blocking the ratepayer’s account was unlawful.

He further ordered that the prepaid meter be unblocked within four hours and that the ratepayer could not be charged a reconnection fee.

Full Daily Maverick report