Rage over power cuts

2018-04-30 16:25
Residents blast City for disconnecting electricity without warning.

Residents blast City for disconnecting electricity without warning. (File)

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As predicted, Msunduzi Municipality went on an electricity disconnection spree at the weekend, this time also targeting the plush Hilton area.

Unsuspecting residents were livid, criticising the municipality for disconnecting prematurely, not giving them until the last working day of the month to pay current outstanding bills and for not serving a disconnection notice.

Hilton resident Barbara Burne said her electricity was disconnected at about 2 pm on Saturday.

Had she not spotted someone climbing to the top of the electricity pole outside her house, she would not have known what happened.

“I would have thought it was just another power outage in Hilton,” she said, adding that the electrician handed her an account, which stated her bill was due on April 30.

On questioning him, she was not given an adequate response. Burne then drove to the AS Chetty Building in Church Street to sort out the problem.

It was resolved when she paid the outstanding bill.

She added that she was not charged reconnection fees, perhaps, because the municipality realised its error.

Burne told The Witness a “steady flow” of irate residents came to the building because they, too, were disconnected. They were “angry and yelling” at the tellers, who remained calm, helpful and polite. Burne added that there were “quite a few” Hilton residents present.

Ward 6 councillor Craig Millar said Hilton residents are not receiving bills because the municipality has lost control of its billing system.

“What is happening does not make sense and the municipality is committing public relations suicide. They need to get their house in order. We suffer continuous outages because of the lack of infrastructure and maintenance.”

He added that the municipality was not prepared to participate in setting up a forum with the national energy regulator.

He said his theory about the power cuts is that “maybe they [municipal officials] are seeing Hilton as a soft target. I am here to tell them we are not”.

In Hayfields on Sunday, Norman Gayer was enraged. He said his electricity was cut despite his producing proof the bill had been settled last Thursday.

His disconnection letter showed his meter reading to be more than what it actually was. His daughter then went to the municipality and produced the proof.

“She was treated very rudely. The teller did not know what to say when she saw she was right. She just got up and left.”

He added that the municipality promised to reconnect the electricity supply.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said disconnections were done in various areas for arrears due at the end of March and not the payment for this month.

“Many customers are complaining they have been disconnected for payment due at the end of April, which is not true,” she said.

Mafumbatha said the electricity account office was open and staff were present to attend to disputes.

“It must be remembered that despite having a dispute on the account, payment must not be withheld as this will lead to an interruption of supply.”

The municipality has previously been accused by opposition parties of using the disconnections to bail out its ailing finances.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  power crisis

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