Protestors and City of Cape Town Mayor agree on way forward on high water bills

Dan Plato signs the agreement reached with representatives of the Khayelitsha community at a meeting held at the Khayelitsha Resource Centre.

Protesting Khayelitsha residents had to wait hours to be addressed by the City of Cape Town mayor after responses they got from his delegation proved unsatisfactory.

Khayelitsha community members and leaders of the recent protest over high water bills say that they are happy after meeting with City of Cape Town Mayor, Dan Plato, wherein they agreed on the process of dealing with the problem. Last week Thursday, all the roads to Khayelitsha townships of Ilitha Park, Makhaza, Kuyasa and Harare were barricaded with rocks and burning tyres as residents of mainly Ilitha Park protested high water bills and the installation of water meter devices. Protestors held officials hostage before Dan Plato conceded to meet with them.

“We are happy that the mayor came and as a committee we will take responsibility for collecting the water bills from the community,” said committee chairperson, Derick Mtsolo. In the meeting held at Khayelitsha Resource Centre, the protestors demanded that the water bills be scrapped, water management devices be removed and that the billing system be resolved.

In a process towards scrapping the bills, it was agreed that the committee will collect the bills from households and that a senior official appointed by the mayor will be a link between the City and the community to give feedback and report on progress to the committee and be available for face-to-face engagement when the committee deems it necessary.

The community told Plato that they want “blue water meters” to be removed. They complain that outsourced companies are continuing to install them despite a supposed hold put on the programme. Plato insisted that the installation of the water management devices has been put on hold by the City.

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The Ilitha Park community also want the billing system to be resolved because “it’s your system, you need to come up with ways of sorting it out,” said Thumeka Mdlazi, one of the committee members reading the list of demands to Dan Plato, the city officials and ward councillors.

“I agree with your recommendations and I agree with the process. I’m willing to work with you but I need the information. Without the accounts, I cannot do anything,” said the mayor in his response. Ward councillor, Patrick Mngxunyeni, who was also part of the meeting, reaffirmed the agreement reached. “We don’t want delays anymore. The more there are delays, the more vandalism,” said Mngxunyeni.

55-year old Mampolokeng Masokanye from Ilitha Park told Elitsha that even though she keeps paying, her water bill does not go down. “Right now the bill stands at R34,570.29. In December, I paid R3,500 and in January, I paid R2,500. I could not pay for the month of March,” said the former domestic worker who is currently unemployed.

Masokanye’s concern about the balance not going down was echoed by 40-year-old Ntombi Sandula from Khulani Park. As it stands, Sandula owes the City of Cape Town R132,900. “In December I paid R5,000 but that did not affect the balance. Before that I was paying R1,000 a month but because I was not seeing any difference I stopped,” said Sandula.

Like many other residents, her water has been completely cut off. “Even though my water has been cut off the water bill keeps going up,” she said.

Now that the accounts will be dealt with on an individual basis, it would appear that the community cannot continue this struggle collectively. Derick Mtsolo denied this saying that the committee will monitor progress and will hold the City accountable to the decisions taken.

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