‘Off the grid’ battle

2016-07-04 12:09
Stuart Grossi sits with numerous bills and disconnection notices from the municipality. His electricity meter was removed after he went completely off the grid, yet he still receives electricity bills from Msunduzi Municipality.

Stuart Grossi sits with numerous bills and disconnection notices from the municipality. His electricity meter was removed after he went completely off the grid, yet he still receives electricity bills from Msunduzi Municipality. (Alice Draper, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - A local man is being billed by Msunduzi for electrcity and water, even though he has been completely “off the grid” for more than three years.

Over this period his bill has risen to more than R20 000.

Stuart Grossi, of Christie Road in Pelham, who farms organic vegetables, says he has been depending on borehole water, a high-end purification system and solar power since 2013.

He does not use any municipal electricity or water.

However, he continues receiving bills from Msunduzi Municipality, reflecting that he is in arrears and with his latest bill amounting to over R20 000.

Adding to his woes, Grossi has been struggling to transfer the property into his name after his father died two years ago.

“The municipality themselves came and took away the remaining cables that were running through my property. They know that I am off the grid, yet they continue to bill me,” he said.

Grossi said an added frustration is the fact that whenever municipal officials come to “disconnect” his power — which happens once a month — they realise he is off the grid and disconnect his neighbour instead.

“My neighbours won’t have electricity for three days a month, which is most annoying for them. The worst is that the disconnection and reconnection fees are added to my bill,” he said.

Speaking to The Witness, Grossi’s neighbour (who did not want to be named) said the situation was “very inconvenient”.

“Our electricity connection is [situated] in front of Stuart’s house, so the municipality disconnects us thinking they are disconnecting his house,” the neighbour said.

“It is very frustrating, but we have mastered what to do now since it happens so often. We know when there is no electricity we have to first check the pole next door before anything else,” he said.

Grossi said he continues to be given the “runaround” by Msunduzi.

Acting municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda told The Witness that the municipality would investigate the matter.

“I am tired of running back and forth. This is getting ridiculous and to think even my neighbour has to suffer because of this,” Grossi said.

He said he had spent almost R300 000 to fit solar panels and a water purification system on his property to remove himself from the grid.

“I have spent a lot [of money] on all of this but the municipality is still claiming money from me. All I should be paying for is rates, refuse removal and sewerage. No one seems to understand that in the municipality, and I wish someone would just take the time to come to my home to see what I mean and help me sort out this problem,” he said.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  electricity  |  water

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