Steep bills for water shock elderly in Imbali

2012-09-05 00:00

FIX water meters, write off water debts, get meter readers and stop estimates.

These were the demands of residents of Imbali Unit 1 in Mqalothi Road, where pensioners have leaking water pipes and faulty water meters.

Some have received water bills amounting to tens of thousands of rands, although their meters do not work.

Bhekumuzi Maleka (60) a pensioner who lives with his four grandchildren, owes R71 828,08.

“With my pension money I support all four my grandchildren, who are unemployed, and even though our water meter is working, the Msunduzi Municipality has been estimating my water usage,” he said.

Maleka has complained to the municipality that he cannot afford to pay the bills when they are based on estimates.

“Even when we had meter readers, we still suffered because they would read the meter, but at the end of the month we received an estimated water account, which did not reflect the reading taken by meter readers,” he added.

Another pensioner, Mavis Dlamini (76), said she owed the municipality R22 000.

“Our water meter is not working and we have reported the matter on several occasions, but nothing has been done to help us,” she said.

Dlamini said she believed the municipality had resorted to overcharging pensioners to recover the money that was siphoned off by corrupt officials who were responsible for the near bankruptcy of Msunduzi.

She said some of her neighbours had not had water meters since the height of political violence the 1980s and ‘90s and the municipality had not bothered to repair them 18 years after democracy.

Sophie Moloi (80) said she owed R30 000 and she didn’t know where she would ever find such an amount in her old age. She is supporting her grandchildren and relies on her pension to survive.

“We don’t mind paying for services, but the municipality needs to fix whatever is wrong with our water meters and stop estimates by getting meter readers. The municipality also needs to cancel these debts that accumulated unfairly because we fear we might even lose our properties because of these water bills,” she said.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma said five contractors had been appointed to trace unidentified meters, dig up meters that were covered and repair and replace ones that were damaged. He said the exercise began five weeks ago at Oribi Village, the city centre and Edendale, Unit J and CC.

“Since then we have replaced 536 water meters. Our target for this year is to sort out 5 000 meters,” he said.

Zuma said the municipality had employed 154 meter readers who would start training today.

He pointed out that while people continued to use water supplied by the municipality when millions of rands were owed to it, the service had not been discontinued.

He said the writing off of debts was not an administrative decision and there were a number of aspects to be considered for an informed decision to be taken.

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