Retired SAA captain Peter Booyens, critically ill with motor neuron disease, sat in the dark for almost two weeks after the city cut off his electricity supply last month because his landlords had not paid the rates bill.
And, when he was forced to make an urgent Durban High Court application to have the power restored, attorneys acting for the city still resisted - suggesting that Booyens make some “interim payment” on the bill which was not his.
“Is eThekwini struggling a bit?” Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel responded.
“This is an old, sick man and he should have electricity. He does not owe the money. The owner of the flat does,” he said, granting the order.
Booyens, in his affidavit, alleged that his landlords, Tommy-John Shawe and Tereza Amm, were deliberately withholding the rates payments knowing that the city consolidated bills and it would result in the power being cut.
This was because they wanted him out of the flat, he alleged.
Now 74, he said he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease two years ago and his condition had degenerated to the point where he could not walk without assistance and “recovery is extremely remote if not non-existent”.
He said in 2011 he signed a nine-year lease with Legit Sports CC on the flat at Ipanema Beach, Lagoon drive, Umhlanga.
The rent was R6 000 a month with an annual escalation of 10%.
The flat was sold in execution because Legit Sports reneged on bond repayments and it was bought by Shawe and Amm who, this year, brought an application in the high court to have him evicted, which was unsuccessful.
“They have now resorted to not paying the rates,” Booyens said.
He has put up documents showing that he has paid the electricity portion of the consolidated bill - about R300 to R400 - every month.
The rates portion of just more than R1 000 is the responsibility of the owners.
“The ploy was to get the electricity disconnected in the hope that I would move out. I am severely ill. I have nowhere else to go. I am indigent and destitute,” he said.
The power was cut on November 16 and Booyens confirmed with the municipality that it was because the rates portion had not been paid.
“This is unconstitutional. I am being punished for their conduct. This kind of conduct may be justified if the owner is the occupant of the dwelling, but not in this case. It is clearly unjust, unfair and a grave infringement on my rights,” he said.
“I have always paid for all electricity consumed and I will continue to do so,” he said.
Advocate J P Broster, for the city, argued that the city had the right to disconnect electricity in these circumstances because of the consolidated bill.
He said the municipality found itself “between a rock and a hard place”.
But Judge Ploos van Amstel said he could make these submissions when the matter returned to court in early February.
Approached for comment, Shawe said Booyens had not paid rent since he and Amm had bought the flat and this was why the rates and taxes had not been paid.
“He is only paying the electricity… it is absolute nonsense.”
Shawe said the judge had not entirely dismissed their eviction application, but had asked for more information and had adjourned it until February next year.
Booyens had claimed in that application that he had paid 10 years’ rent in advance to the previous owners but had not provided any proof of that.
City Treasurer Krish Kumar told The Mercury that from a legal perspective the consolidation of bills had been tested and accepted by the court.