It’s Complicated

2013-06-24 00:00

UMNGENI resident Darryl David has overcome many obstacles in his life and no challenge was insurmountable. He founded BookTown in Richmond in the Karoo. More recently he established the Midlands Meander Literary Festival. However, nothing has proved more challenging and frustrating to him than spending the past year trying to sort out an incorrect electricity bill with the uMngeni Municipality.

David, who is sitting with an electricity bill for R18 000, said he has spent the past year trying to sort out the matter, to no avail. The last straw was when he received a notice to say his power was going to be cut for non- payment.

He decided to stage a sit-in at the municipal office. He went prepared with a pile of examination scripts under his arm, which he planned to sit and mark, in between recounting his tale of woe to passers-by. Within 15 minutes of his arrival he received attention — the first time in a year of seeing his e-mails and queries go unanswered.

He blames a particular official whom he was told could help him and who never bothered to reply to any of his e-mails. The official apparently has since said she did not work in that section. One would have thought she could have at least let David know and directed him to the right person to help him.

David’s visit to the municipality at last got a response and by Friday municipal officials were at his property to check his meter. He says the crux of the matter is that the electricity reading on his bill is 20 327. His actual reading is approx 5 700 [see picture] — which means that there is nearly a 15 000 unit difference on what appears on the bill and what is on the meter.

The Witness contacted uMngeni Municipality and was told that the concerns surrounding David’s bill had been amicably resolved. Thando Mgaga, the municipality’s spokesperson, said the discrepancies had resulted from the fact that officials were unable to gain access to David’s property for many months to read his meter and his billing was based on estimations. Mgaga said notices had been left at the house requesting David to phone in his meter reading to the billing section, but that this was never done.

“Our officials accompanied Mr David to his property where his meter was properly read and reconciled. A formal apology has been sent to Mr David and he was urged that going forward he should either dictate his meter reading monthly by telephone or ensure that our staff are able to physically read his meter,” Mgaga said.

Contacted yesterday, David said while he has no doubt of the promise to settle the matter amicably, he does not believe that the matter has been fully resolved. He said the municipality had not communicated to him how much they will be crediting his account for. “If it is not for R17 000 at the very least I will not be happy.”

He remains angry that the municipality knew about the problem seven months ago and failed to resolve it and instead threatened to cut his power off. “If they were estimating my readings, why did they then levy an R7 912 additional charge onto my account last November? And, there is also a matter of R1 000 credit already owing to me,” David said.

Founding a book town in the middle of the Karoo sounds far less complicated than sorting out a billing problem with the uMngeni Municipality.

It’s never easy

SPARE a thought for Northdale resident Leslie Soobrayan, who fell into a manhole as a result of a broken cover and hurt his leg. His misfortune was reported in this column two weeks ago.

Just as his leg was beginning to heal, he found himself facing another hurdle. Soobrayan began filling in his insurance claim form to submit to the Msunduzi Municipality. One of the requirements was to get a medical report on his injuries. Soobrayan duly proceeded to Northdale Hospital where he was treated after the accident. However, he was shocked to learn that he would have to pay R412 for the completed form. Soobrayan was devastated because he is collecting a grant. If he could afford R412 he would be using private health care. He said he has been a hospital patient for a very long time having been treated for a variety of ailments.

Northdale Hospital responded: “The fees payable are set by the hospital fees manual from the KZN Department of Health. According to our hospital assessment policy, Mr Soobrayan is classified as a free patient because he is unemployed, however, this does not apply to a request for a medical report of this nature.”

The hospital invited Soobrayan to declare his financial status in order for special provision to be made for him to get his medical report.

According to the KZN Hospital fees manual: The facility fee for a report is R108, the professional fee is R203 and a copy of the the clinical notes R101. Total R412.

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