Residents punished for municipal water bill mix-up

Electricity cut off because of unpaid water accounts which residents say they never received

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Nolubabalo Koni says her electricity has been blocked because of an unpaid water bill of more than R63,000 which she disputes. Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani

  • Several hundred Port Elizabeth households have had their electricity accounts blocked.
  • The municipality says they owe up to R63,000 in unpaid water bills, which they deny.
  • These households were charged in 2014 for water - but the water was only connected to their township in 2018.

About 500 households in Missionvale in Nelson Mandela Bay have had their electricity blocked because of what the municipality says are unpaid water bills. But the families say they have never run up these bills of up to R63,000.

Resident Nolubabalo Koni told GroundUp, “On 10 November I went to the shop to buy electricity but I couldn’t get it because my electricity account was blocked. Then the following day my husband went to City Treasury … He was told that he owes the municipality over R63,300 for water and he must pay R6,000 to unblock our electricity account.

“They said according to their records our water meter was replaced with a new one. I told them that never happened. But they said the meter reader’s report says so. We also discovered that on our account instead of writing ward 31 they wrote ward 37.”

History of problems

Koni said since they occupied their RDP house their water account has been giving them problems.

“My house was built in 2013 and in 2014 the water meter was installed, but there was no water and we made use of communal taps. But the same year I received three water meter accounts claiming that we owe R7,200. We ignored the letters because we had no water then in our homes.

“In November 2018 we got water for the first time in our homes. But my electricity meter was quickly blocked. I went back and forth to Cleary Park Customer Care service and the councillor’s office but we couldn’t get help. We were told to pay R1,000 to unblock our electricity account,” she said.

She said after a series of complaints by residents at the ward councillor’s office their accounts were written off. Ward 31 councillor Luyolo Nombola (ANC) confirmed that water accounts for some 2,000 households which had no water supply had been written off.

But Koni said the problems had continued. She said the township had not received any water accounts in 2019, yet the municipality had blocked their electricity accounts claiming the water bills were unpaid.

Accounts not sent during lockdown

PR Councillor Teslin Booysen ( DA) said when the water was installed in the township there were no meter readers and the municipality had estimated water usage. “Most of those accounts were around R7,200 but with an option to lodge a complaint at Customer Care. Those who could not pay their accounts were advised to apply for assistance.”

“But since the lockdown started the municipality … there were no water accounts being issued but people were expected to pay the average amount they used to pay before the lockdown.”

Booysen said on 1 October the municipality had introduced credit controls and account holders were given 15 days to settle water accounts or have their electricity boxes blocked.

Nombola confirmed that 500 households were still having problems. “However, Budget and Treasury are dealing with those problems. I constantly submit reports on behalf of those who are affected, including the affected family.”

Nelson Mandela Bay municipal spokesperson Mamela Ndamase has not responded to GroundUp’s questions since 17 November.

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