Keenen Whittaker from Maraisburg is one of several frustrated Joburg residents who have approached Independent Media to complain about inaccurate bills from the municipality.
Whittaker said his woes started more than a year ago when he received an electricity bill of R48 000 for one month.
“I have a proof from the City of Joburg that my meter was faulty but I have been trying for several months to have this corrected and have reached a brick wall.
“When I asked to have to a prepaid meter installed I was told I must first clear this outstanding amount.
“My wife is deeply frustrated and angry about the way that I’ve failed to have this thing sorted out,” said a visibly upset Whittaker. He sent an e-mail to Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba, pleading for him to intervene, on September 20 last year.
In the e-mail, Whittaker said: “I am deeply frustrated and angry at the way I’m treated by your municipal officials and contractors... (who arrive) at my premises to cut the electricity on a regular basis... even if we have queries on our account; we are being charged pre-termination and disconnection fees.”
In the e-mail, Whittaker said he had been receiving pre-termination letters almost every week, for which he was being charged.
“City Power officials came to cut my water supply in May last year and later discovered it was an illegal cut. I have been begging your office ever since to assist me with this account, but no one cares.”
He said he had received no response from Mashaba. As a result, he sent another e-mail in February this year to Robert Motseko, the operational manager at Mashaba’s office.
Whittaker said: “I am a resident who is extremely unhappy with the way my family and myself are been treated by the city. We are continually being... embarrassed and humiliated to a point where this matter has severely compromised my marriage and my relationship with my family.
“I am seen as a useless father, one who is degrading the family. As I’m writing this e-mail to you, I cannot contain the pain and frustration that we have to experience as the Whittaker family.
“I have been paying my accounts on a regular monthly basis, without fail.”
Safiyah Ebrahim Cook, of Montgomery Park, shares Whittaker’s frustration to some degree.
She said she had sent several e-mails to City of Joburg officials, including the mayor’s office, regarding an inflated account. Her husband visited municipal offices to have the matter addressed, but to no avail.
“In October 2016, we received an invoice which reflected a water account for R8137.07. This included VAT of R999.29. Upon investigation, we discovered that we had been billed on an incorrect water meter. We are not sure for how long this has happened. We then logged a query on November 17, 2016.
“My husband has been to the council a number of times. We have been advised that a R300 fee is levied for every termination letter.
“So that needs to be reversed as well. There is no issue in settling the account. However, we need to ensure we are being billed the correct amounts on the correct meter.”
A household of two adults and two children could not use 3.6kilolitres of water a day, Cook said. “This was impossible, unless I leave the taps running for 24 hours a day.”
Cook, a practising attorney, said taking the city to court would be a long and expensive exercise. The city was aware of this, which was why it remained complacent about dealing with such queries.
All efforts to get comment from the City of Joburg proved fruitless and spokesperson Karabo Tledima only responded via WhatsApp, saying he had forwarded the query to the relevant department.