Unpaid water and electricity bills leave group of vulnerable Joburg residents without services

Cape Town Water R - Unpaid water and electricity bills leave group of vulnerable Joburg residents without services

Unpaid water and electricity bills of over R21 million have left a group of vulnerable residents at the Johannesburg Society for the Blind without these essential services.

They say they’re concerned about their safety and health as they’ve not had water and power for more than a week.

Some refuse to vacate the home as proposed by management and Gauteng’s Department of Social Development.

While festive preparations are underway for families across the country, the government-subsidised facility is filled with doom and gloom.

84-year-old Elda Oliphant has called the Johannesburg Society for the Blind her home for 24 years. She says over time, living conditions have only worsened.

“My concerns and problems are that this place has been deteriorating, it has now reached a point where we are without water, without lights, because the accounts are sky-high. The skeleton staff that has been here has been good to us to carry water for us into our homes. Before we had to boil water to try and wash. Imagine me carrying a kettle to put water in the basin. The water you have to use for your toilet, you have to lift the lid of the septic tank and feel for the lid…how inhumane is that?”

Oliphant is one of the two residents, who refuse to leave the home as suggested by management. She fears she will suffer the same neglect as Life Esidimeni patients.

“We don’t want an Esidemeni part two. In fact, I think God is giving us strength to be able to talk for those poor people who were mentally disturbed. They were dumped wherever. This time they also want to go and dump us.”

Board member Hennie Els says over R15 million is owed to Rand Water and over R6 million to City Power. The management is currently in talks with both utilities to dispute the amounts.

“The problem comes back to 18 years. Originally they started billing us in industrial rates and not NPO rates and that goes up to a count of over R100 000 a month. Some months are much higher than that. In order to rectify that, there must be a re-application to re-zone the property. The CEO submitted that to government then COVID hit us.”

“A few years ago, the whole management took a week and went to JHB water. We reconciled the amount for the last 10-15 years and we found we have credit of over R600 000. Instead of giving us and passing the credit, they loaded on top of that amount plus interest every month. That is one of the problems we are trying to solve with them to take ownership of their incompetence and fix the billing problem.”

Els rejects concerns raised by residents — who refuse to leave the home.

“For instance people staying at the Boksburg society for the aging in terms of the COVID.”

The Gauteng Department of Social Development visited the home to probe the matter. Acting Deputy Director-General, Solly Ndweni says those found to be mismanaging funds will face consequences.

“I think it was this is how you ought to be billed. If it’s found we will take stern action.”

The department says it will conclude its investigations within the next two weeks.

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