‘Scrap costly system’

2015-07-21 10:48
Sobantu residents barricade the road with burning tyres during a service delivery protest yesterday.

Sobantu residents barricade the road with burning tyres during a service delivery protest yesterday. (Ian Carbutt)

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SOBANTU residents barricaded the only road in and out of the township with burning tyres yesterday, protesting the high cost of the pre-paid electricity system.

The road remained closed for most of the morning.

Children could not go to school with teachers unable to come into the township to get to work. Residents working outside the township had to stay at home or walk to town as there was no access to public transport.

The protest came after a meeting allegedly scheduled for Sunday between the municipality and the residents failed to take place.

A resident who asked not to be named said the community wanted to return to the old metered electricity system.

“In March last year the municipality launched this voucher electricity project. Many of the people were in arrears with their accounts so we asked that the amounts for the monies in arrears should be paid separately,” she said.

In July this year, we noticed that the municipality had imposed a 40% charge on all the electricity vouchers we bought. They said this was a council resolution.

“If you buy an electricity voucher for R100, you only get electricity units for R60. They take the other R40. We did not agree to this arrangement,” she continued.

One resident showed The Witness his voucher. He had bought electricity units to the value of R200 and R80 was deducted for arrears.

“I only saw this when I looked at the slip,” he said.

“That leaves very little units for electricity. We cannot cook, some families have gone back to the old apartheid days when we had no electricity. We are making outside fires to cook,” another said.

There were tense moments during the protest with police mobilising to disperse the crowd through negotiations or the use of teargas.

Members of the executive committee visited the area to try and reach a compromise but soon left after residents refused to budge, with some in the crowd insulting them.

By yesterday afternoon, the road was fully opened and there was a strong police presence with more than 11 vehicles parked at the scene.

Police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese said the situation was resolved and no one had been arrested.

Acting municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said the residents were aware of the deductions.

“Residents wanted to switch over to prepaid meters but most had outstanding balances on their accounts and as per our credit control policy residents can only go onto prepaid electricity meters if they had the outstanding balance settled,” she said.

“This money deducted is for the ­consolidated bill that includes the outstanding account for rates, electricity, sewerage and rubbish removal.

“If there are monies deducted from people that do not owe anything, they must come forward so that we can rectify the matter,” she added

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  protest

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