City’s credit drive hits colleges

2010-01-28 00:00

A STRICT credit control drive by the allegedly cash-strapped Msunduzi Municipality, which promises to disconnect water and electricity for domestic, business and governmental defaulters, appears to have affected the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department, and has led to questions as to whether the department is in a financial crisis.

The department’s uMgungundlovu district office in Jabu Ndlovu Street is without electricity and the midlands campus of the uMgungundlovu Further Education and Training (FET) College has been without power since last Monday due to the non-payment of their lights bills.

According to a FET college spokeswoman, Lynn Horan, the disconnection of lights has not only hampered registration in that the process has taken longer than necessary, but the college has also had to hire generators for its day-to-day operations.

She said their students started classes this Monday, but the institution is still without telephones, fax facilities and access to e-mails.

“All theory classes are running, but we are unable to use our computer rooms and laboratories. Lecturers are unable to use electronic teaching aids and on overcast days the classrooms are very dark, so writing on the boards is not always visible.”

On top of this, the part-time engineering students have been moved to the Msunduzi campus for the week as their classes run from 5 pm to 8 pm. But according to Horan, this is only a temporary solution because next week those premises need to be used by the part-time business students.

She said a meeting was held between the Education Department and the college and it was agreed that the college will take over the monthly account payments from March last year with the department settling all outstanding debt.

“The department of Education has been made aware of this situation and to date we have had no word from them.

“We are looking into hiring more generators for evening classes next week, but this is very expensive and we do not know when the electricity will be reconnected,” Horan said.

Meanwhile, Sukuma High School has been without water for over a week and what stands between it and the water crisis is R14 million.

Sukuma, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the FET college in Indumiso have been sharing one account since the days when the premises were used as a teachers’ training college. Since then, the account has never been split.

All these establishments have residences that house thousands of students. Earlier this week, student representatives reported that students cannot bath, drink water or flush toilets, while some staff members have reported collecting rain water to fill toilet cisterns or driving to Makro to use the toilets.

Aggrieved DUT student representative council members got a chance to voice their displeasure to the minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, on Monday when he visited the area.

Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo, who was with him, told The Witness that the water debt has been adding up over a period of time, with no one taking responsibility.

However, DUT’s deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Nqabomzi Gawe, said this follows a long and unresolved issue over the lack of a water meter to conduct an accurate reading of the campus’s monthly water consumption.

He said DUT has tried to make arrangements to settle the account.

DUT has since decided to suspend all academic and residential activities at its midlands campuses until further notice to avoid the threat of health hazards.

Department spokesman Sihle Mlotshwa said the department has already paid R4 million into this account, but it is still not settled since the other institutions have not paid their share. He said the department is working towards having water supply spilt to prevent this ever happening again.

“We have sent water tanks in the interim to alleviate the plight of learners at Sukuma High School.”

An insider revealed that the district office is likely to get electricity only today. It is alleged that the error lay with a department employee who failed to capture the September bill. According to this source, the municipality also failed to make the department aware that the September account had not been paid, even though the following months were.

Now that this has been brought to their attention, the money has been paid, but the municipality is refusing to acknowledge the dispatch number until the money reflects in the bank, which takes three days.

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