REGOROGILE – While the people in Regorogile Extension 5 were up in arms on Tuesday because of power cuts for account backlogs, the only representatives of the Municipality there to hear their complaints were two DA-councillors, Franco Loots and Paul Scruton.
The company contracted by the Municipality to monitor meter readings, credit control and cut and reconnect water and electricity, UMS, on Tuesday cut the power of many of the residents living in Ext 5, on instruction of the Municipality.
When one of the residents, Lerato Madibela, tried to stop UMS workers from disconnecting her electricity, the police was summoned. They were on the point of arresting her and taking her to the police station when other residents interfered and stopped the arrest.
Despite the fact that only prepaid electricity is available in Regorogile and the account backlogs pertain to the supply of water, sewage and refuse removal services, the electricity was cut. According to Gert Snyman, chairman of the Ratepayers’ Association, it is illegal to cut a paid-up service for one unpaid. The residents are also entitled to 6 kilolitres free water which must be supplied.
The Municipality acknowledged that residents in Regorogile and Northam are millions of rands in arrears for services provided. Individual bills to the amount R80 000 and R104 000 were showed to the Kwêvoël.
In hindsight it is clear that the problem of non-payment was left for far too long by both service provider and user. It is unclear why services were not cut at an earlier stage. According to Mayor Patricia Mosito residents are to blame for not taking responsibility to pay their accounts, and eventually, after years, being faced with bills which they cannot afford to pay.
According to Municipal Manager (MM) Roger Nkhumise, in the past water was cut to force residents to pay their accounts. However, residents made illegal connections and all that remained for the Municipality to do was to cut the electricity. Since Tuesday, it has been reconnected, but it will be cut again, says Nkhumise, if residents do not make arrangements with the Municipality to pay their accounts.
A financial recovery plan was implemented to help residents who are in arrears. With this 30% of the amount owed, which represents the interest, will be written off and a workable instalment agreed upon for further payment.
Mary Monare, spokesperson for the Ext 5 residents, says that despite a meeting in July, subsequent meetings in the mayor’s office and a council meeting which they attended on 6 October, nothing has improved in Ext 5. Many of the residents qualify as indigents. One of them is Brenda Mokgosi, who earns R841 per month, but who also receives municipal accounts to the amount of R800 per month.
According to Mosito she qualifies as an indigent, but the responsibility rests with her to prove this. Documentation from, amongst others, SASSA and the police, will have to be provided to prove indigent status. The income of all the dwellers serviced by each water and power outlet are taken into account when indigent status is determined. According to Nkhumise and Mosito residents often claim to be indigent while they drive fancy cars, watch DSTV and make extensions to their houses.
The disgruntled residents of Ext 5 complained that the water supply has for quite some time been irregular due to a faulty supply pipe. They have gone for three weeks at a time without any water and other times with water only available for a couple of hours in the middle of the night.
According to the MM, the problem is one of water pressure. Ext 5, positioned higher up in Regorogile, need a separate reservoir which will cost approximately R7m to erect. An interim measure would be to keep the town reservoir at 65% or to install tanks to hold the water. Problems with water loss due to heat and faulty pumps however still hampers a sustainable supply of water.
According to the furious residents their own ward representative, Councillor Aaron Moatshe, is “failing” them and the “mayor is worse”. Moatshe at one stage denied any knowledge of the residents of Ext 5 and slept through the council meeting of 6 October when his constituents complained about their situation. Sources say that he has indicated that the pressures of the job were too much for him and he wanted out.