Residents see red over water bills
Mariska Spoormaker, Die Burger
Port Elizabeth – A man says he was so angry about his R265 000 water account that he didn't even want to speak English when he stormed into the Koukamma municipal offices.
Miekie Strydom, owner of the Kareedouw butchery, says he is usually a very reasonable man.
"The audacity to think they can cheat me like this. But I had barely started kicking up a fuss in the offices when an official called me over to fix everything."
Ami van den Heever, minister of the Uniting Reformed church in Misgund, however, has had no such luck.
Letter of demand
"Pay R42 924.45 or we prosecute," threatens the red "letter of demand", as most of the angry residents of the Koukamma district now refer to them.
On Thursday afternoon he phoned the municipality. There was no answer. "Then I phoned my council member and he said everyone's gone home. I wish I worked there."
But, Van den Heever added, this is a serious business, "because in order to use that amount of water, I would have to do 10 baptisms by immersion every day. And we don't do immersions, we only do sprinkling."
As a religious man, he would like to see the good in people first, but the municipality is making this very difficult, since he believes they're taking chances.
"We don't even get our water from the municipality, we get it from the farmer on the farm Black Ginger."
Mistakes slip through
Noel O'Connel, mayor of Koukamma, responded by saying one or two mistakes may slip through on accounts, but that would be the exception "because the accounts are only sent out after a verification process".
Nic Coetzee finds it hard to accept this explanation. He has even received water accounts for his empty plots of land.
All the red "letters of demand" are delivered by registered mail to the residents of Joubertina, Tsitsikamma, Kareedouw, Krakeel, Louterwater and Misgund.
"We probably have over 600 red letters here, three crates full," said David Rudman, the post master.
O'Connel explained that these red letters show how serious the municipality is about putting a stop to the culture of non-payment of municipal accounts, "but discussions will follow; the residents will be given the opportunity to present their side of the matter", he added.