Nomusa Ngcobo's mud house in Sobantu Township in Pietermaritzburg has racked up a R220 000 municipal bill for rates and other services. Picture: Supplied.
Nomusa Ngcobo's mud house in Sobantu Township in Pietermaritzburg has racked up a R220 000 municipal bill for rates and other services. Picture: Supplied.
A mud house in Sobantu Township in Pietermaritzburg that has racked up a R220 000 municipal bill for rates and other services. Picture: Supplied.
A mud house in Sobantu Township in Pietermaritzburg that has racked up a R220 000 municipal bill for rates and other services. Picture: Supplied.
Durban - A woman living in a mud house in Sobantu Township, Pietermaritzburg, is facing a legal threat after she was slapped with a demand for payment for services amounting to close to a quarter of a million rand by the Msunduzi Municipality. The municipality alleges the property incurred the R220 000 debt in services over the past 14 years.

Rough calculations suggest the house would have been ­incurring a yearly bill of around R15 000 for services per year over the past few years. Homeowner Nomusa Ngcobo said her family bought the house around 1999, but the property had not been transferred from the former owner - although the family were not aware of that.

Ngcobo admitted she had not paid, but said this was ­because they had not been ­receiving a bill in their name. She said the former owner only alerted her to the bill last month, as they started the process to transfer the property. The house is shared between three adults and five children.

“I went to speak to the ­municipality and was told that this was the amount I owed for water, sewage and rubbish ­collection,” she said. “When we tried to speak to them, it was clear they had decided to take the matter to their lawyers, and they also told me that they wanted me to pay the amount. If they insist we pay, I have no idea what I am going to do,” she said.

Ward councillor Sandile Dlamini said he had been made aware of the issue, and a meeting was planned in the coming week with the municipality. “That figure does not make any sense to me; no house in this township can accumulate that amount in services, and I have seen the house in question,” he said.

He said there were other houses in the township that owed between R80 000 and R100 000, and he suspected it was a case of over-billing. “It quite clear that there is something wrong with our billing system, because I was also billed incorrectly. After I questioned the amount, the staff at the billing section produced a new bill, through the same billing system, that reflected the correct amount.

“It is important we address this billing issue before it makes us look foolish,” he said. Dlamini said many of the houses in the township were over-valued.

Billing has been a huge problem in the council, with councillors saying many people in their wards were being billed incorrectly, and then threatened with disconnections if they could not pay.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha insisted that the amount owed was correct. “This account is only being billed for rates, refuse, sewer and water consumption. There have been no payments on the account since 2004,” she said. “We will gladly supply copies of the account indicating how the balance of the account was arrived at. There is no problem with the billing system, as the meter is being read monthly. The water usage on the property is rather high,” said Mafumbatha.

The Mercury