Pensioner faced with R4 million power bill, thanks to informal residents
Durban - A 76-year-old Durban resident has to foot a R4 million electricity bill on behalf of informal residents who have been stealing power from his properties.
Vishnunathan Govender purchased six adjacent properties in Park Station Road, Greenwood Park between 1989 and 1990 with the intention of developing and selling them to help fund his retirement.
“But then, the informal settlements began to grow and I couldn’t sell or rent them. Then my properties were overrun and hijacked. I was meant to be smelling the roses of my hard work, but instead, I’ve been pricked by its thorns,” he said.
Govender has four more properties – one each in Mill Road, Parthab Road in Avoca, Workington Road and Storm Road in Kenville. The Mill Road property had the highest bill of R1 059 420.12. The bill for the six adjacent properties in Greenwood Park was R923163.65, while that for the others amounted to more than R100000.
“I have been reporting the issue of illegal connections and squatters for about a decade but nothing happens. The City comes and disconnects the illegal connections, but then they are reconnected as if nothing happened – or in worse instances, the municipal workers allegedly charge the perpetrators a “reconnection” fee.
“I just can’t win and I have asked the City to just totally cut the electricity supply. I cannot even begin to think how I could pay off about R4m in electricity bills. I am still paying rates and bonds for the properties,” he said.
The Sunday Tribune visited the properties in Greenwood Park, which were run-down and dilapidated, with broken windows, but the nearby overhanging trees and bushes were lined with an array of coloured, electrical wires connected from Govender’s houses into the informal settlement, which was a stone’s throw away.
The exposed wires were easily accessible for the nearby playing children or unaware people walking down the road or pathway to their home.
Three dogs had already been electrocuted in the last few months and a dead rat lay atop an exposed wire on the ground as a group of children played nearby.
Residents from the informal settlement said they had no other choice.
One resident, who was part of a three-person team that was establishing an illegal connection, said this was not what they wanted to do as they knew it was unsafe, but they needed electricity, just like everybody else. “We are willing to pay for electricity if we were given the chance.”
Another anonymous resident said he had been living in the informal settlement for 14 years and was frustrated after years of broken promises. “We are forgotten and not cared for; nobody comes to help us – not even our councillor.”
Ethekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said Govender was responsible for the safeguarding of his property.
“In terms of legislation, there is an obligation for the owner to manage and safeguard his property because all municipal charges ... are their responsibility. A legal process is required to evict the occupants and we advise him to get a court order to that effect.”
Mayisela said the municipality was aware of Govender’s request to disconnect illegal connections – and had done so – but the City had no control over illegal access and reconnections.
“Regarding the payments, we are a caring municipality and will gladly sit down with him and discuss payment arrangements.
“We urge him to approach the City regarding this. All factors will be taken into consideration, such as the fact that he is a pensioner and the circumstances regarding the accumulation of the bill.”