Poorest in city receive exorbitant water bills

2014-01-27 00:00

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. 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.

Yesterday, 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.

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.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.