Unpaid accounts for services in the GCR: spatial patterns and underlying causes

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Households in the urban areas of South Africa are expected to pay for services like electricity, water, and effluent (or sewerage). These services can be paid for through accounts with municipalities or in some cases, with service providers like Eskom. There are two main methods of payment. Households on prepaid meters top up in advance, while households with accounts receive a monthly retrospective bill.

The June 2024 map of the month focuses specifically on the latter group and investigates the proportion of households in arrears on their bills. While some households can meet their expected expenditures for services and property taxes where applicable, a considerable proportion of households fail to keep up to date with their accounts, resulting in them falling into arrears. In this month’s map, we analyse the spatial patterns of households with unpaid accounts across in Gauteng.

We analyse data from the GCRO Quality of Life (QoL) 6 Survey (2020/21) to understand; (1) the proportion of respondents reporting that their households had unpaid accounts for services like water and electricity, and (2) the reasons for the unpaid accounts. The results show that all municipalities, except Midvaal, have identifiable areas with clusters of wards with considerable proportions of survey respondents indicating that their households had unpaid accounts for services. In the City of Tshwane, we find these clusters of wards in Soshanguve and Mamelodi while in the City of Johannesburg, they are found in the southern parts, especially Soweto. There are four such areas in the City of Ekurhuleni and these are located in Kempton Park, Daveyton, Vosloorus, and Brakpan. Wards with some of the highest proportions of respondents (up to 82%) indicating that their households had unpaid accounts are found in two locations in Heidelberg which are Ratanda and Rensburg under the Lesedi local municipality.

Several reasons were reported by survey respondents as the underlying factors for the unpaid accounts for services. However, the most cited reason was affordability; 72% of those from households with unpaid accounts reported that their households could not afford to pay. Incorrect billing (or faulty metering), reported by 11%, and not receiving bills (5%) were also cited as reasons for unpaid accounts.

Read the full Map of the Month article here.

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