Utility bill shock

2015-11-13 12:32
Barbie Burger (79), who depends on an electrical oxygen tank to breathe, had her electricity cut off by the municipality for four days after she was billed more than R17?000 for a burst water pipe at her home.

Barbie Burger (79), who depends on an electrical oxygen tank to breathe, had her electricity cut off by the municipality for four days after she was billed more than R17?000 for a burst water pipe at her home. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - With her life depending on electricity to power her oxygen tank, a Prestbury pensioner’s electricity was disconnected after a water leak resulted in a massive utilities bill.

She is now struggling to rectify the enormous bill that resulted in her power being cut off.

In August, Barbie Burger (79) returned from hospital after two weeks to find a burst water pipe in her yard. She employed a plumber who fixed the ageing pipe but a month later was slapped with a utility bill of R17 538,70.

“I queried this amount and it was under dispute but then [the Msunduzi Municipality] cut off my electricity saying that my account was in arrears. My water and electricity should be separate matters and I have never defaulted in my payments,” said Burger.

Now her account sits at a whopping R19 588,77 after disconnection and reconnection fees as well as penalties for the disconnection were added to her bill.

Burger, who lives alone, said she was grateful to friends and neighbours who assisted her by connecting her oxygen tank to their own electricity supplies via extension cords for the four days that her electricity was disconnected.

When she received her enormous bill, Burger immediately contacted her ward councillor, Glenn McArthur, who forwarded her queries to senior members of the municipality. Burger said municipal officials promised to visit her to deal with her account, however, no one has arrived to date.

“I really needed the electricity because of my oxygen tank and the fact that I had no hot water. I even sent my friend to pay R2 000 towards my account in the hopes that the municipality would reconnect my electricity but they didn’t,” she said.

Her electricity was restored yesterday, but Burger says her stress now lies in the enormous amount she has to pay the municipality.

“I realise I may have to pay for the water loss but when the municipality disconnected my electricity they added numerous penalties that I have to pay for, which I don’t think is fair,” she said.

Burger said she hoped the bill could be reduced and she be allowed to pay for it over a period of time.

She added that she was grateful to her friends and neighbours who “rescued” her and have assisted her.

“I cannot leave the house because of my oxygen tank so I have neighbours and friends who do everything for me. I would be lost without them.”

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said that Burger’s account has to be paid but they would investigate the matter and if she qualified for indigent status they could assist her.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water

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