The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) CoGTA MEC, Sipho Hlomuka to request that his Department intervene in the uMgungundlovu District municipal billing woes, with an urgent emphasis on the fair treatment of those who are paying their bills.
The move comes after an oversight inspection by the DA to the Richmond Municipality last week, during which residents and civic bodies were consulted about the challenges facing their respective communities.
DA KZN Spokesperson on CoGTA, Chris Pappas, said the visit had formed part of an ongoing probe into the real state of local government in the province and followed the recent finding that municipal billing in is in a dismal state, with many municipalities regularly providing inaccurate bills or failing to provide good customer services to residents.
“Amongst the myriad of problems found within the Richmond Municipality was the issue of water bills from the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, with many residents and civic bodies describing endless problems with the billing system,” Pappas said.
“Incorrect bills, untrained meter readers, infrequent reading of meters, over-estimations in terms of consumption and the non-delivery of bills were just some of the problems highlighted by Richmond residents. This trend is confirmed by the DA’s province-wide survey,” he said.
In addition to the billing issues, the District Municipality had closed its local customer service centre. This means that residents with issues must either call the call centre, which is a problem in itself, or travel an hour to Pietermaritzburg to get help.
“The uMgungundlovu District has been plagued by challenges for a number of years. The billing issue is just another layer added to an already struggling district and yet another challenge for already frustrated residents,” Pappas said.
“The DA is concerned that there is neither the technical expertise or the political will to get the basics right within this district. This as years of hollowing out of skilled officials and the deployment of cadres has left the district – and many of the local councils within the district – with a severe lack of capacity,” he said.
He said the party was also concerned that the ANC was determined to implement the District Development Model (DDM) which will see greater power shifted to regional bodies with power being taken away from communities.