Msunduzi municipality in hot water over bills

2014-01-27 12:01
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Pietermaritzburg - The Msunduzi municipality is courting more billing controversy - this time over water accounts.

Getting ready to do battle over the accuracy of their bills are the poorest in the city. Most are on social welfare grants of R1?200 and are sitting with water bills ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of rands.

The figures were revealed in their January accounts when they received consolidated figures on their latest bills.

For many it seemed a joke seeing figures as high as R35?000, R50?000 and more on their accounts. Imbali resident Jabu Danisa, who lives in an RDP house, received a water bill of R700?000.

The seriousness of the situation hit home last week when the municipality disconnected pre-paid electricity meters to force the occupants of RDP houses to pay their outstanding water accounts.

People go to loan sharks for reconnections

The disconnections were carried out in sections of Cinderella Park, Woodlands, Copesville and Imbali.

Mildred Mothlawane, who lives with her grandson in Cinderella Park Phase One, used the R500 left from her grant, which was earmarked to buy food, to pay for the reconnection. She said her grandson gets food at school, but she has had nothing to eat except black tea and mealie meal.

Mothlawane had some money because she budgets wisely. She knows of neighbours who have been going to loan sharks for money to get reconnected.

Nondeka Zuma, of Woodlands, used the money she put aside to send her daughter to college to get her pre-paid meter reconnected. Her daughter’s education was her hope of getting out of poverty.

Now she is unsure if she will be able to educate her child further.

Indigent policy

On Sunday, residents of Cinderella Park met to try and find a way out of the quagmire. There was much anger and suspicion over how the municipality arrived at its figures.

The meeting heard of houses with no water meters, broken meters and years of estimations.

Residents blamed the municipality’s dropping of the indigent policy when it went under administration for causing their problems. From paying R30 and R40 on their water bills, they started receiving bills of R300, R400 and more during the administration period.

The indigent policy was later re-instated, but despite undertakings by previous councils that the debts would be wiped out, they never were and remain on their accounts, accumulating interest.

Candace Naidoo said a letter from the labour department, saying that she was unemployed, did not move municipal officials, who demanded their money.

“I have a neighbour in mourning who can’t bury her child because she has no money, because she had to pay to get her electricity reconnected,” Naidoo said.

Task team

Judy Maharaj said the joke was that their electricity was cut because of their water accounts. Now all they are doing is paying to get power reconnected, but the high water bill stands.

“I haven’t contributed one cent to the R35?000 I am supposed to owe for water. How and when am I expected to pay for this?” Maharaj asked.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said a task team was meeting to look at the issues raised by the communities disputing their bills.

He added that municipalities were between a rock and a hard place as they had to collect revenue to carry out service delivery. - The Witness

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  service delivery  |  water
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