That's the reasoning from the South African Local Government Association (Salga).
Municipalities across the country are owed billions, with some of the debt even pre-dating 1994.
Salga says communities are outraged when there is no basic service delivery, but they also fail to pay for the services they use.
The largest component of municipal debt comes from households.
That makes up 71 percent of the total debt.
Areas like Soweto are a major headache. The township's debt might have to be scrapped as it's considered uncollectable.
Salga, however, has a different message.
"We are going to conduct a rigours process of this gross debt and restructure the debt realistically. Our message is very clear: Pay us so we can our service providers," said Salga President Thembi Nkadimeng.
Salga says drastic steps need to be taken against those who don't settle their bills, including disconnection.