Gogo’s des­per­a­tion

Woman faced with R35 000 wa­ter bill braves heat to march

Weekend Witness - - News - NALINI NAIDOO

GOGO Phillipa Cele, who will be 80 in May, found her big­gest sun­hat so that she could take part in yes­ter­day’s protest march to the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg City Hall.

She could not walk all the way from Dales Park, a dis­tance of more than a kilo­me­tre, but she joined the small band of de­ter­mined marchers when they were near the city hall.

She was there, she said, be­cause she lost her hus­band and four sons, she lived on her own and was sit­ting with a mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter bill of over R35 000. Her only in­come was her gov­ern­ment pen­sion of R1 200. She said all her ef­forts to get the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to sort out her bill had fallen on deaf ears.

The av­er­age age of the group of just over 200 marchers must have been about 65. They braved yes­ter­day’s scorch­ing heat to take part in the ser­vice de­liv­ery march, with their main gripe be­ing their ex­or­bi­tant wa­ter bills.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Msun­duzi Rates Fo­rum were also part of the march. Their mem­o­ran­dum protest­ing in­cor­rect prop­erty val­u­a­tions — that was pre­vi­ously handed to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and never ad­dressed — was given to Mayor Chris Ndlela as well.

The South African Na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Sanco), mean­while, dis­tanced it­self from the march and was crit­i­cal of or­gan­iser Zakhele Hlatswayo for us­ing its name. Hlatswayo told the mayor he did not get Sanco’s man­date but was there as a com­mu­nity ac­tivist rep­re­sent­ing the res­i­dents.

Sanco re­gional sec­re­tary Vusi Nt­shangase said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was shocked to see its name be­ing used. Sanco was not against the coun­cil­ lors, nor the mayor, and be­lieved that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was act­ing in the in­ter­est of the weak and poor.

The mayor re­ceived the mem­o­ran­dum and ad­dressed Hlatswayo as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a group of peo­ple of Im­bali. Hlatswayo protested, say­ing the marchers rep­re­sented the peo­ple of greater Eden­dale and other sub­urbs in the city.

Ndlela told the marchers that the is­sues they raised were lega­cies of the apartheid past, when black ar­eas were ne­glected. He said the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion was deal­ing with huge back­logs, and mat­ters like wa­ter me­ters and age­ing wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture were re­ceiv­ing at­ten­tion.

Mem­bers of the Msun­duzi Ac­tion Fo­rum and the busi­ness com­mu­nity did not par­tic­i­pate in the march. Mem­bers said it was not be­cause the tar­iffs had been re­versed, but that they re­ceived the in­vi­ta­tion dur­ing the week and did not have time to make al­ter­nate ar­range­ments.

PHOTO: JONATHAN BUR­TON

Gogo Phillipa Cele braved yes­ter­day’s heat to protest her R35 000 wa­ter bill.

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