Greytown water bills shock

2008-01-07 00:00

Greytown residents, including Mayor Petros Ngubane, are reeling after they had a nasty Christmas surprise from their water authority, uThukela Water.

Following a year of water woes in which residents were often left with dry taps due to failing infrastructure, they were presented with hefty arrears water bills two days after Christmas, which they were told had to be paid by December 31.

Irate resident Gerry Germishuyzen told The Witness that his arrears account was R5 000.

"We were told that uThukela had not read the meters properly since November 2005 when they took over from Umvoti. They then only read them properly again in November [last year] and just after Christmas our accounts arrived, giving many of the residents a nasty surprise."

Germishuyzen said that he is usually billed for approximately 20 kl per month, but according to the latest bill, uThukela now alleges that he used an average of 48 kl per month.

Germishuyzen added that he and other residents with huge bills are seeking legal advice on the matter.

"We were not warned that these accounts were coming. It is straight after Christmas and many residents have school fees to pay now, so it’s unreasonable for uThukela Water to drop this on us at this time."

Eleanora Denysschen, of Arcadia Home for the Aged in Greytown, said the home received two separate bills of over R10 000 each and they are not prepared to pay them until they get clarity on these amounts.

"There’s no proof that we have consumed so much water. We will continue paying as normal because as a home we rely on funds and cannot afford to pay such a huge amount," she said.

Mayor Ngubane also received a bill of over R10 000.

"Even though uThukela were not reading the meters for some time, I was paying for my water. It really surprised me to get a bill for such an exorbitant amount," said Ngubane.

He said that this "was bad for the community", but that the municipality will be looking at ways to resolve the problem.

uThukela Water’s managing director Msizi Cele said they are in the process of making sure that people are billed on their actual consumption rather than estimates.

"We have sent letters to our customers to negotiate easy payment plans and we encourage our customers to come to us to arrange payments over longer periods."

The Local Government Department has given uThukela Water until February to shape up or face drastic measures, which could include the liquidation of the entire company.

The beleaguered water service authority has been in hot water after it emerged during a forensic audit that it is a private entity.

One of the company’s biggest problems is its exorbitant operating costs. After further discussion by the Local Government committee in November it was agreed that the board would be given three months to show that they were performing well, or it would be dissolved.

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