Three defaulting Pietermaritzburg schools' lights disconnected
Durban - Several Pietermaritzburg schools that have electricity bills in arrears have been disconnected as the Msunduzi Municipality cracks down on defaulting customers.
The Mercury understands that last week three schools were disconnected in Northdale.
In at least one of the schools, the municipality demanded a R130000 payment for electricity.
However, the school is contesting the debt, claiming that some of the billing was for a period when there was no schooling due to the national lockdown.
A school governing body (SGB) member at Northlands Primary School said the school was disconnected on Thursday last week.
“Our electricity bill went from R12000 a month last year to R25000/month this year, which does not make any sense,” said the official, who declined to be named.
“We get about R100000 a year from the department and we need about R1.9million a year to run the school. We have to perform miracles and ask for help from local businesses to generate money,” said the official.
He said that since the beginning of the lockdown, they had been unable to collect school fees.
“We know the municipality is short of money for their own expenses, so they’re now targeting the schools.”
A ward councillor in the Northdale area, Rooksana Ahmed, said she was concerned about electricity disconnections at defaulting schools.
“How is it that the municipality can disconnect schools and yet landlords cannot evict their tenants because of Covid-19?
“The municipality’s billing system has been a problem since 2017, and they know this, and because of Covid-19 we know that meter readers have not been reading meters. How can they be certain that these statements are correct?” she asked.
Ahmed said attempts to get the city’s finance department to enter into a payment arrangement with the schools had been refused.
Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha confirmed that some schools had been disconnected.
“They owed large sums of money, and we did not just disconnect them. We sent numerous notifications to them to warn they would be disconnected, and should come forward to make arrangements.”
The Department of Education had not responded to requests for comment by deadline.