By Anees Teladia
A recent report by the City’s water and sanitation directorate indicates that city residents have increasingly made a point of bypassing water meters, suggesting that the increase could be due to high water tariffs. Ghaleema Easton, spokesperson for Justice 4 Cape Town confirmed this suggestion and more, saying that residents have been left with no other option.
“If people are sitting with huge water accounts and are not getting any joy at the City offices they’re going to for help, what else are they supposed to do? People have to push to the point where they just ignore the water accounts they receive because they walk into the City offices for help and they’re not getting any help,” said Easton.
“If I were in their shoes, I would bypass my water meter too. I would steal water if I had an aged mother or father in the house who needs that water.”
“They get told to make payment arrangements while the investigations [into their accounts] are ongoing – so what does that mean? They have to pay the current amount owed, they have to pay off arrears and on top of that they have to live. It’s crazy”
Easton argues that the City caused this water “theft” to happen and that in many cases water meters were removed and/or replaced without the prior knowledge or consent of residents.
The high tariffs and water bills are beyond the financial means of many residents.
“The City caused this to happen. I’ve got a gentleman who came home from work one day and his meter was lying in the street…now this man has been charged for a new meter he didn’t ask for and he’s sitting with a huge account,” said Easton.
“One couple has a R54 000 account. They’re done working and they’re done looking for help. They pay the little bit they can afford to pay!”
Easton also indicated that there might be some form of corruption or abuse of power in the City offices.
“There are some saying that they get to the offices [City offices] and are told to put down R5000 as a deposit to start an investigation into their accounts and into why this is happening.”
Many residents in Cape Town struggle to survive on a daily basis and pensioners can barely afford basic necessities with their grants.
Easton says that with pensioners receiving from R1,780 to R1800 per month, they cannot afford to pay high water bills, keep up with the increasingly high tariffs and live decent lives.
The City’s Mayco member for water and sanitation, Xanthea Limberg said a response would be issued on air, on Wednesday.