Woman faced with R35 000 water bill braves heat to march
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.
Gogo Phillipa Cele braved yesterday’s heat to protest her R35 000 water bill.