Water bill reprieve for schools

2010-02-05 00:00

EDUCATION institutions that had their water services terminated for non-payment have been granted a reprieve.

Msunduzi Municipality restored services at about 4.30 pm on Wednesday, after cutting off the supply for three weeks as a result of an unpaid bill of R24 million, which was allowed to accumulate over years.

At yesterday’s finance committee meeting, municipal manager Rob Haswell said the water supply had to be disconnected as the bill remained unsettled, despite countless meetings with the department.

“It’s unfortunate, but the disconnection had the desired result in that the Education Department realised that this is serious.

“All we are asking for is a firm commitment to meet the debt. We’re not asking for millions at once, but a continued reduction,” said Haswell.

He added that the municipality is planning to engage the department to find a solution.

Democratic Alliance councillor Bill Lambert said the city of Cape Town also battles to get some government departments to pay their bills.

Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo said: “We can’t have schools shut down. What does this say to the children? They don’t blame the Education Department, they blame us.”

ANC councillor Themba Zungu said that although he understands the sentiment, the money needs to be recovered. “We must be practical and have a backbone for things that are not being done the right way.”

Zungu said various other departments also owe money, even hospitals.

“Council doesn’t own water and electricity, we buy them. There are other ratepayers who are very poor, yet when they don’t pay, they get cut off,” he said.

Hlatshwayo said Education MEC Senzo Mchunu has asked that all outstanding accounts be forwarded to his office.

“We’ll deal with the department,” she said.



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