City Council beats paid-up ratepayers into submission

Paid-up ratepayers have given up trying to dispute Msunduzi Municipality’s sometimes incorrect and unwarranted electricity disconnections because they are getting cut off regardless.

Consumers who flocked to the municipality’s AS Chetty building on Monday, to eitheir pay or query their accounts, accused the City of injustice for its cut first, explain later policy.

At least three of the people who spoke to The Witness said they queried the amount they were being disconnected for and were awaiting an outcome. Some said they were unaware of owing anything, and were disconnected nonetheless.

The majority of the people, like Anna Msomi, elected to pay so that they could be reconnected even though they rejected the amount they were told they owed.

Msomi, who looks after a three-bedroom house in Bisley, said the disconnection team told her that the property owners owed the City R3 000.

“The couple that I work for live in Johannesburg so I’ve been looking after the house and paying all the bills since January. I’ve been paying every month so I don’t know where this amount comes from,” she said.

She said when she tried to query the amount she was told that she must pay first and the City will follow up on the query.

Businesswoman Suraya Mohamed had to close down her spice-packing factory on Monday when she was disconnected. She spent the whole day at the AS Chetty building arguing with the officials over the R48 000 she is said to owe.

Mohamed said her problems started in November last year when the municipality sent her an R11 million bill even though her factory had not yet started operating at that time.

After being sent from pillar to post for weeks, the City eventually sent a meter reader, who discovered the meter was damaged and had to be replaced.

She then lodged a query on her account because the City had not been reading a meter yet she was being billed.

“They replaced my meter in January and the factory opened shortly after and I’ve been paying my account monthly. Now they’ve disconnected me without any explanation or conclusion to the query I lodged,” she said.

Mohamed refused to leave the AS Chetty building until she had been attended to and her lights were reconnected. She stood her ground and told the officials that she didn’t care if they called the police on her. A team was eventually sent out late in the afternoon.

“I had to put my whole day on hold. I missed my appointments and couldn’t do my work. I’m glad the lights are back on but I still need answers on the R48 000 and the query I lodged so I’ll be back if no one calls me with an update tomorrow [today]” she said.

Other people who lodged queries on Monday said they have prepaid meters.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the City will investigate the allegations that some of those disconnected are awaiting an outcome on their queries and others are on prepaid electricity.

She said the municipality does not send out statements if their accuracy is in doubt, in spite of ratepayers being billed R1 million, as reported in The Witness last week, and R11 million as related by one of the complainants on Monday. “The number of accounts that were unbilled due to unbalanced figures were 2 233 which equate to 1,72% of the total statements that were billed and invoiced out to customers.

“It must be understood that the manner in which accounts are held back due to errors is better than billing customers erroneously. Other municipalities on SAP are using the same approach.”

Mafumbatha said that customers whose accounts have not been billed from July 2017 to date can e-mail details to billing@msunduzi.gov.za and Nadia Simons will address those issues with the SAP team.