PENSIONERS at the municipal flats in Verulam are pleading for answers from eThekwini Municipality regarding their excessively high electricity bills.
The occupants in 64 flats claimed that they have not been receiving letters from the municipality to remind them about outstanding balances on their electricity bills. Spokesperson for the tenants Retonia Govindsamy said pensioners are struggling to keep up with the high electricity bills.
“Pensioners earn R1 700 in old age grants. They pay rent to the municipality close to R593 per month. The total a month including electricity comes up to R1 000 a month. Pensioners barely have money left for food,” Govindsamy said.
She claimed that electricity meters are not being read every month.
Pensioners in these flats are aged between 55 and 95 years old.
She said eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede had a meeting with the tenants in February where she promised to revert with solutions.
“We did not get any sort of feedback from the mayor. She was supposed to come back to us, but that never happened. Some of the pensioners are on chronic medication. I have noted tenants are not paying the same rent — others pay R400 and R500 a month. Why can’t the municipality level the rent across the board and all tenants pay the same amount? They do not even read meters, that is why bills are not consistent,” Govindsamy said.
Tenant Hoosen Patel (84) has lived in the flats for the past 12 years, for most of that time he lived his wife before she passed away.
“My son is battling too. He supports his family and is unable to support me. I am struggling to pay the electricity bill. First of all we do not get our post letters from the municipality,” Patel said.
When the Weekly reporter visited the flats on Monday, broken water pipes could be seen hanging from the walls. Tenants also complained about leaking ceiling boards.
Another pensioner, Savathree Naidoo (74), said her ceiling board in the bathroom is leaking. Naidoo has been staying in the municipal flats for the past 12 years.
“I pay every month. Our flats are not maintained properly,” she said.
The then Borough of Verulam opened the old aged flats in 1994 and thereafter merged with eThekwini Municipality.
Ward councillor Johnson Chetty said deputy mayor Fawzia Peer held a meeting with the residents on Tuesday, September 17.
“Society is judged by the way we treat our vulnerable people, that includes senior citizens. The pensioners who live in these municipality owned flats, are in the twilight of their lives. Their only source of income is their pensions. Some of the pensioners are forced to pay the bulk of their pensions by way of electricity and rent,” Chetty said.
He said sometimes pensioners are left with just R150 from which they need to pay for food, clothing, medicine and other necessities.
“It is my considered opinion that these pensioners had paid adequate rental over the last 30 odd years to recoup the money spent on building these flats. These deserving pensioners should be living rent free.
“At the meeting with Peer and other officials [on Tuesday], the pensioners were informed that there is no budget to change their conventional electricity meters to prepaid. Where does one get such a fantastic amount when the person cannot buy groceries? This is not the better life for all that Madiba promised the people in 1994,” Chetty added.
Coastal Weekly sent an email to the Communications Department at eThekwini Municipality on Thursday, September 13 for additional comment.
At the time of going to press there was nothing forthcoming.