Housing beneficiaries can’t afford water bills

Harmony and Morgen’s Village residents are unable to pay their exorbitant water bills after not having been issued with accounts for up to seven years.

Amputee Morina Calitz, 59, who is wheelchair-bound, said her daughter had to go “skarrel” for water.

Taps have run dry in the house of Morina Calitz, 59, from Morgen’s Village, who hasn’t had running water for two years.

Her taps have run dry and she hasn’t had running water for the past two years.

She cannot afford to pay the water bill addressed to her and the late estate of her husband.

The City of Cape Town would not discuss residents’ personal details but made general remarks regarding the situation and confirmed that there was indeed an outstanding balance on the account.

“This municipal account is currently in the name of the Cape Town Community Housing Company (CTCHC),” read their response to the Plainsman.

Activist Brenda King, who is also a Patriotic Alliance (PA) Proportional Representation (PR) councillor candidate, has been working with residents across the city since March. Describing the situation, she said the “water problem is deep and wide”.

She said less than 10% of the residents living in the 850 units built by Cape Town Community Housing Company (CTCHC) could afford to pay their water bills which range from less than R300 to as much as R500 000.

The units, which have two bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen were built at a total cost of R178.9 million between March 2013 and February 2015.

Ms King said most of the residents were pensioners and across the City of Cape Town people were unable to afford their water bills.

She runs two water cut activism community WhatsApp group chats, to advise and direct residents to the City and their ward councillors to address this issue.

While she cannot see an end to this problem, she told the Plainsman PA lawyers intended opening a civil case against the municipality and that they had a petition doing the rounds which could be signed digitally or physically.

“This is a human rights issue and we will have to address this as a civil matter,” said Ms King.

Shahiem van Nelson, Good Party’s Ward 75 councillor candidate, is collecting documentation from residents, which they would like to hand over to the City’s director of revenue.

He explained that there were applicants who qualified for indigent grants but that their debt had not yet been written off; as well as those who had not yet received a response from the City.

“There seems to be a failure for the council to implement indigent relief,” he said.

The Plainsman asked the City why residents had not, before March this year, received water bills and why they were so high.

City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said the properties were owned by a private entity – the CTCHC.

“City is working with the CTCHC,” he said.

“Where properties must be registered in the beneficiaries’ names, the City will assist with the issuing of the rates clearance certificates to assist with the transfer into the beneficiaries names at the Deeds Office. The latter is nationally controlled and not by the City, so these beneficiaries, when they become the legal property owners on transfer, can apply for the indigent basket of benefits the City is offering,” he said.

He said they would then get their own municipal invoices monthly.

Mr Tyhalibongo said they had asked the company to send all of the correct documentation of the beneficiaries, so that the necessary rates clearances could be issued, and the homes registered in the names of the beneficiaries.

“The City will assist once the documentation is received from the CTCHC,” he said.

David Masimila, general manager of CTCHC, refused to comment except to say that they were working with their clients.