Imbali residents protest over prepaid meters

2017-06-20 14:27
Residents from Transit area near Imbali Crossing blockaded all entrances to the township with burning tyres and rubbish, demanding that Msunduzi Municipality scrap 40% deductions from their prepaid electricity vouchers.

Residents from Transit area near Imbali Crossing blockaded all entrances to the township with burning tyres and rubbish, demanding that Msunduzi Municipality scrap 40% deductions from their prepaid electricity vouchers. (Nokuthula Khanyile)

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Irate residents brought Imbali to a standstill on Monday when they staged a violent protest over prepaid electricity deductions.

The residents said 40% had been deducted from every prepaid electricity voucher they had purchased since the municipality introduced a new pilot project to recoup electricity debt from residents.

Drivers were forced to use alternative routes to town after residents used burning tyres, tree branches and rubbish to barricade all the main points out of Imbali.

Recent protests in Sobantu over similar issues had led to the City overturning the decision to automatically deduct 40% from the prepaid vouchers in that area.

Police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the residents, who ripped up a fence and barriers along the side of Moses Mabhida Road.

The protesters also flipped a bus shelter and smashed the windscreen of a passing vehicle while also threatening to set alight the municipal office in Imbali Unit 1.

A resident, Buyi Sokhela, said they were angry that no one had bothered to clarify why money was being deducted.

“We are told we owe R4 800 for water and rates. How is that possible when there are no water meters installed in this area to measure the amount of water we use?”

Residents said they wanted an indication of how much is outstanding because the deductions had been going on for years.

Another resident said they want the municipality to do away with the prepaid meter system.

“I use R1 900 a month for electricity and I’m unemployed. Before I used to buy R100 electricity and get 72,5kw but with the new system I only get 40kw. That doesn’t even last two days. In a week, I buy electricity three or four times.

“Why is the municipality requesting us to pay for water and rates when we stay in low-cost houses that are in a poor state? The roofs are leaking and municipal workers dug up trenches in our yards and never came back to complete the job.”

Another resident, Busisiwe Khanyile, said before the new meters were installed she only spent R200 a month on electricity.

“With the new system the electricity doesn’t even last two days. I have a family to take care of and electricity is becoming a burden. I can’t even buy groceries because all the money I have is used to buy electricity,” she said.

The residents said they have opted to stop buying electricity because it is too expensive.

Bonginkosi Sibisi of the Electricity Action Group said they were in solidarity with the residents.

“We believe the deduction is illegitimate. We support the protest and hope the municipality scraps these deductions altogether.”

Plessislaer police spokesperson Captain Musa Ntombela said no one was arrested during the protest and that police are investigating a case of public violence.

Ward councillor Dumisani Phungula referred all questions to Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha, who could not be reached for most of the day.

She responded late on Monday saying only that the matter was being investigated as it was unclear to them what the root cause for the protest was.

“We cannot comment at this stage as there are many underlying issues.”

She said they would issue a statement at a later stage.

City executive council member Glen McArthur said many areas were being charged the levy to pay for non-existent debt.

“I warned the city to deal with it and they declined the suggestion, saying it was only Sobantu that had a problem.

“They failed to follow up on it and yesterday electricity purchased by people from Peace Valley 3 still carried the illegal levy.” 

Roads into the city from Prestbury were gridlocked in the morning rush hour as residents from Imbali came through Mpumuza and then down Morcom Road to get to work.

Prestbury residents complained that taxis were overtaking long lines of traffic on both sides.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  service delivery protests

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