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Rates dispute leaves Westville resident in dark

A candle burns in a dark house without electricity

File Picture: REUTERS/Esa Alexander

Published Oct 26, 2023


Durban - A Westville resident who has been without power for almost two months has vowed not to back down from their fight despite the hardship her family has experienced since the eThekwini Municipality disconnected her electricity along with that of other residents.

The residents, who are members of the Westville Ratepayers’ Association (WRA), had their electricity disconnected after they embarked on a rates boycott.

A few months ago, WRA declared a dispute with the municipality over the tariff increases the City imposed when it passed its budget. The association said the increases were excessive and were imposed without consultation.

After WRA had declared a dispute, the members started paying their rates into a trust account, and more than a million rand has been deposited in the account.

In response, the municipality started disconnecting the electricity of some residents who were part of the boycott. Five houses in the area were disconnected, and to date they are still without power.

WRA launched a high court bid to block further disconnections and to compel the municipality to reconnect electricity to the five homes.

The judgment has yet to be delivered in the matter.

Speaking to The Mercury, the resident, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said the hardship had not weakened their resolve.

She said it had actually served to make them more committed in their battle with the municipality to ensure that it lives up to expectations and serves its residents.

She added that they were awaiting the court judgment.

“This is not about just me, it is about all of us, it is about ensuring that we live in a safe environment.”

Speaking about her family’s ability to cope since the municipality cut the power, she said: “The question one can ask is, what can you do without power? And the answer is, nothing.”

But she added that she had received a lot of support from her neighbours. She said that while they had gas to cook, they could not stock the fridge or charge their phones.

“This situation has strengthened my resolve to keep fighting the municipality. We need to get the services that are in line with the rates we are paying.

“We cannot have a situation where there are so many meters that are not being read,” she said.

WRA chairperson Asad Gaffar was unable to comment yesterday.

EThekwini Municipality declined to comment on the matter as it is before the courts.

Head of communications, Lindiwe Khuzwayo, said: “eThekwini Municipality will not comment on the matter until the case has been concluded in court. We appeal for all parties, including the media, to respect the court process.”