Billing issue comes to a boil

2018-10-02 15:45
‘Abusive’ resident asking for her rates bill since January.

‘Abusive’ resident asking for her rates bill since January.

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A long-standing dispute over billing issues escalated into a heated fracas between Msunduzi staff and members of a Northdale family last week.

Noel Jaiwar and his daughter, Shivanie Porsu, were involved in an altercation with Msunduzi billing staff and security guards in a back office at the AS Chetty building last Tuesday afternoon.

In video footage of the incident, which The Witness has seen, Porsu can be heard exchanging swear words with staff members. At one point in the video, Jaiwar is seen falling to the floor in front of the door and refusing to get up. He can also be heard complaining that a guard “twisted” his leg.

Father and daughter told The Witness on Monday that they have since the incident consulted two attorneys and a forensic auditor for advice on possible future action.

Msunduzi spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo, however, alleged the staff involved in the dispute with Jaiwar and Porsu were receiving assistance for the alleged “emotional trauma” they endured.

“We have evidence that proves that ... the members of staff were subjected to threats, name-calling, verbal, emotional and physical abuse from [Jaiwar and Porsu]. Having done an investigation and having seen the video, we view that kind of abuse towards the members of staff in a very serious light.”

Jaiwar and Porsu declined to comment on the contents of the video footage, but said they had grown frustrated with Msunduzi for failing to sort out their billing issues. The father and daughter said that they have been experiencing various problems with Msunduzi’s “chaotic” billing — or lack thereof — dating back to 2016.

Porsu said that she had realised in January that she owed the municipality money for rates as they had not sent her a statement since she moved to a new property in November 2016. She and her father — who was assisting her — immediately took steps to inform the muncipality and tried to make arrangements to pay the arrears but to date said they have not been issued with an invoice. This is despite repeated requests for a bill.

Last week Porsu’s worst fears were realised when she found the lights at her Northdale home had been disconnected, despite all their efforts to avoid this.

The disconnection notice reflected she owed R16 209,42 for electricity. However, Porsu says she is fully up to date with her electricity payments, and it seems the amount on the notice may actually be for outstanding rates.

She and her father accused the staff at Msunduzi of being rude and unhelpful and sending them from “pillar to post” on a regular basis.

Porsu said as she cannot get time off work, so often her disabled father — who suffers from orthopaedic problems — has tried to help her by going to the municipal offices to raise queries on her behalf.

Jaiwar claimed Msunduzi had in March given an assurance that they would properly invoice Porsu for her rates.

He alleged staff had also sworn at them during last week’s incident, and claimed a manager at the billing department instructed security guards to not let him into the building again after he had queried the lights disconnection.

He said the home was reconnected “within four hours”, but they were unsure why this happened as no payment was made at the time.

Porsu felt she and Jaiwar were being victimised by Msunduzi because of their constant queries. “When you go [to the billing department], they don’t know how to treat people. They scold you, shout at you,” she said. “My father has been going there like a dog [every month] and getting mistreated. We just want answers to valid questions. This has caused us a lot of distress.”

Jaiwar said Porsu’s rates issue remains unsolved and that she is still not receiving invoices. Both of them said Porsu intends to pay the full amount once billed. She has gone there ready to make payment but they could not give her an invoice.

Jaiwar said they were consulting with lawyers and considering whether to launch a civil claim, open a criminal case, or report Msunduzi staff to get them disciplined.

Ngcobo said they will “vigorously” defend any charges brought against City staff.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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