Late meter calls a fiasco

2015-07-15 09:43

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IT’s past 8.45 pm and a person ­claiming to be from the municipality wants access to your yard.
Would you let them in?

A Prestbury pensioner is fuming after receiving a “threatening” letter from the municipality because she refused to let a meter reader onto her property late at night last week.

The single woman said she was “tucked in bed” at around 9 pm on Wednesday night last week, when a municipal worker visited her home to read her electricity and water ­meters.

It being late at night, and she on her own, the woman ignored the bell. But the next day she received a strongly worded letter telling her she would be found guilty of an offence if she did not allow municipal workers 24-hour access to her property.

She said the letter indicated that a meter reader had been at her house at 8.48 pm.

“As a pensioner, you must understand that opening my gate to a stranger at such an hour is foolish in the extreme,” said the woman, who did not wish to be named for fear of victimisation.

The woman, who lives alone and has faced an attempted rape and ­hijacking on her property previously, said the “more shocking part” was the “unpleasant and slightly ­threatening” letter she found stuck to her gate the next morning.

“I find that offensive. My meter had been read that very same morning so there was no reason for someone to come to my gate at 9 pm.

“I am one of those citizens who are more compliant than most and this is not the way the municipality should treat their best customers,” she said.

The letter added that due to residents being away from their homes and properties being locked during the day, “meter readings would be done between 4 pm and 9 pm and on weekends”.

The pensioner said she has been living in Prestbury for 20 years and has always allowed meter readers onto her property during the day.

“I make it a great habit to read my own meter and record it. I also call in and give my readings.

“If the municipality had only looked at their records they would see I am a faithful customer,” she said.
She said when she contacted the municipality, she was advised that meter readers would have an identity card in their possession which proves they are from the municipality.

“ID cards are not sufficient for me. It is very easy to get a fake ID and as a single woman who has already been strangled, faced attempted rape and a hijacking, I will not open my gate,” she said.

Msunduzi Municipality acting spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said they are “appealing” to customers to co-operate with meter readers who are working until 9 pm daily and on weekends.

“We had to deploy the dedicated team of meter readers to focus on residents’ units that are inaccessible because of locked properties, hence the estimation of their consumption is escalating.

“The meter readers have identity cards and letters from the municipality bearing contact details of municipal officials to verify if there is any doubt or concern,” said Madonda.

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The Zwartkop Valley Residents and Ratepayers Association slammed the practise of late night meter reading as ­“ridiculous and unacceptable”.
“I don’t find the necessity in this and no one wants strangers in their yard at that time and especially in the middle of winter,” said the association’s spokesperson Lesley Oosterbroek.
“The municipality should find another way to get the readings. This will be seen as an opening for criminal activity.”
Prestbury ward councillor Glenn McArthur echoed Oosterbroek’s sentiments, saying “in this day and age and especially in South Africa, one cannot go out at that time of night to let strangers into one’s yard”.
He said when he first heard of municipal workers visiting homes at that time, he assumed it was a scam.
“Council did not bother to ­inform the ward councillor or the ward committee, or much less the public that electricity meter readers would be operating after hours. Protocol in this municipality has gone out of the window and the tail is seemingly wagging the dog again. It is not clear as to why municipal ­officials would be operating ­outside of normal working hours and to be asking people to open up their homes to allow unidentified officials into one’s property between 8 pm and 9 pm at night is outrageous to the ­extreme,” said McArthur.
Chairperson of the Prestbury Community Policing Forum (CPF) Tubby Climpson said he would raise the matter at last night’s CPF meeting with residents.
“I haven’t heard about this ­before, but this topic will be ­added on the agenda for the meeting,” Climpson said shortly before the meeting started.

Read more on:    meter-reading

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