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eThekwini’s billing woes go unanswered in council meeting

DA councillor Riona Gokool said councillors were inundated with complaints about inconsistent utility bills. Picture: Supplied.

DA councillor Riona Gokool said councillors were inundated with complaints about inconsistent utility bills. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jul 1, 2022

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Durban — The eThekwini Municipality speaker Thabani Nyawose took the blame for unanswered questions about the municipal billing system failures at the full council meeting on Thursday.

DA councillor Riona Gokool sent 11 questions to the speaker for a response from the relevant unit.

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Gokool said councillors were inundated with complaints about inconsistent utility bills. eThekwini mayor and finance, security and emergency services committee councillor Mxolisi Kaunda said they were dealing with similar complaints received on the municipality’s Facebook page.

Gokool said it had been years since the municipality integrated the old billing system with the new one. She said customers were still experiencing problems and asked why the system kept crashing when users tried to upload their electricity meter readings.

In her list of questions, she asked when the problem would be resolved, why was the system not functioning optimally and who was being held accountable for its malfunctioning.

She also queried how much the system cost per month, what the difference between the old system and the new system was, and when could customers expect the system to be fully operational with no glitches.

Gokool wanted to know if the municipality had a back-up plan when the system failed and if the system was designed to allow for a more effective and efficient way of capturing water and electricity meter readings.

Gokool also asked why the city did not dispatch meter readers to capture customers’ readings to avoid unfair billing. She also asked for a response on what method of communication the city used to communicate to residents when these situations arose.

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Kaunda said they had not received the questions before Thursday’s meetings and his unit could not be held responsible for not having a response.

Nyawose said he would investigate the matter.

“I will remind the chairs of committees to respect council in future and prepare ourselves. It is embarrassing and disappointing. If there is any misdirection that happened I would have to take responsibility. I apologise to council and the committee members of finance. We will attend to them as soon as possible to avoid such a mistake. I take the blame.”

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Responding to the meeting on Facebook, Desiree Dalais said: “We are so sick and tired and frustrated, we are constantly having water and electricity issues. Our bills are still ridiculously high even though we do not have this water and power most of the time. We go days without power, all our fridge items then need to be thrown out. Children miss school due to this. We pay for this service, it’s not free.”

Nontoh Cheryl Cebekhulu said: “Water and rates bills are inflated too much. We pay every month but the bill is R30 000. Only one person working in a household.”

Zakhele Sbonelo Ndlovu said: “How do you explain this? We did not have water since 11 April 2022 and now there is R900 water charges estimated between 22 April and 22 June.”

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