eThekwini proposes payment plan for water billing error

Rate papers expressed dissatisfaction over water bills. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Rate papers expressed dissatisfaction over water bills. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Published Jan 8, 2024


The thousands of Durban residents affected by a water billing error will not have their services cut if they “default” on the additional amounts they have been asked to pay in order to settle the bill that accrued as a result of the error.

The City gave the assurance during a meeting convened with ratepayers led by the eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement (ERPM) to address the issue of the billing error on Friday.

In a statement, the municipality said the engagement was aimed at finding amicable solutions for ratepayers affected by the water billing adjustment.

But other ratepayers’ organisations expressed dissatisfaction with the meeting and distanced themselves from it.

The City recently announced that thousands of houses that don’t qualify for free basic services as they are valued at over R250000 were provided with free water. Since the error was picked up, the City has begun charging those residents for this additional water use.

The billing error dates back to 2020. In one bill seen by The Mercury, a resident owed the City more than R4000 and was now expected to pay an additional R400 each month on top of their monthly bill to settle this amount.

In the statement, City manager Musa Mbhele said the Municipality proposed capping the amount payable by affected ratepayers to accommodate those who were not able to pay the full amount.

“This means we will ring-fence the debt and not allow any interest to accrue, and no services will be cut off due to the billing adjustment provided that an acknowledgement of debt has been signed. We will further allow ratepayers to settle the debt over 36 months or until the full amount is paid if the amount due is more than the average of approximately R6000.

“We will standardise the debt which means that those affected will pay an additional R180 per month instead of the full amount now,” he said.

Mbhele apologised for the inconvenience caused by the error, adding that it was important to engage with stakeholders regarding the issue.

The City and ratepayers had agreed to work together and it was agreed that abnormal cases (for example, where the amount due is more than the average of R6000 or affected by calculations errors) would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Asad Gaffar, chairperson of ERPM told “The Mercury” that the meeting was just one of several they expect to have with the City, “There are few more things to sort out first.”

But eThekwini Ratepayers and Residents’ Association chairperson Ish Prahladh said the battle with the municipality was going ahead. “We are taking them to task soon.”

Teddy Govender, of the Chatsworth Ratepayers’ Association, called on ratepayers and residents to unite.

“Lessons must be learnt from previous legal challenges. Civic organisations can mobilise ratepayers and residents but the agreement is between the user and service provider. The action must come from the resident.

“There are so many civic organisations speaking with different voices. The only time that residents can hold the municipality to account is by uniting. United we stand, divided we fall,” he said.

The DA in eThekwini called on the City manager to investigate how the error had occurred and said those implicated must face consequences.

DA councillor Mzamo Billy said: “It cannot be that, under the ANC-EFF coalition, eThekwini citizens are rewarded with erroneous bills while others have to endure dysfunctional service delivery.”

The Mercury