The City of Cape Town had treated him like a criminal, instead of a customer, Parow resident Mark Thomas told mayor Patricia de Lille in an email, but that didn’t help him in his weeks-long battle with the City over a disputed water account, which led to a dry spell for the family when the water was disconnected.
Mr Thomas, who has lived in Sarel Cilliers Street, Parow West, for 10 years said his water account averaged between R250 and R300 a month. When it jumped to R4 000 for September/October 2016, he queried it.
He had called the City’s call centre, where different agents were unable to explain why the account increased ten-fold for that month.
Mr Thomas shares the house with his wife and young grandson, and tenants at the back.
He went to the water department in Bellville, but there too, he found no answers.
Then last month, a notice came in the post warning that the water would be disconnected unless the account was settled.
On Thursday February 16, he went to the council office in Parow again to lodge a dispute. A day later, he called the call centre again after he received an SMS to contact the City regarding “high consumption”.
Mr Thomas has a print-out of all the calls he made to resolve the matter. The following week (around February 22, 23), a call centre agent contacted him. The woman said he should have his meter replaced, at a cost of R1 300, but she could not guarantee if that would change anything.
“So I must now fork out R4 000 and replace the meter,” he said. He said the attitude was: ‘you can dispute, but still settle’.
On Wednesday March 1, his wife called him at work to say the taps were dry at home. Angry but desperate for water, he went to pay R4 000 that same day. Then the struggle began to get it reconnected.
At the Parow office, he was assured it would be that evening.
“Two gents came at 9.30pm, and said there was a leak from the council’s side. They said there was an issue with the fittings and they do not have the tools to fix it,” he said.
They said someone would come the next morning. When that didn’t happen, on Thursday March 2, he spoke to various call centre agents, including someone in Plumstead, to find out why the water hadn’t been restored. Despite a personal undertaking from a Mr Fortuin, a team leader at the call centre, that it would be reconnected that day, it wasn’t, he said.
Three days after the disconnection, he was at Parow municipal office again, and he was at the end of his tether.
“I raised my voice, and I’m not one to do that,” he said.
While there, he got a call from home, saying the technicians were there to put the water back on.
“My level of trust in the City of Cape Town is not very high,” he said after his ordeal.
Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, said they had investigated the spike, which was “due to increased consumption”. Mr Thomas, however, said nothing out of the ordinary had happened at his house. As for the City technicians who said there was a problem with the fittings, Ms Limberg’s answer was: “It is not clear where the technicians and faulty fittings come into play.”
Ms Limberg insisted there had been an investigation; that this was an actual reading and they had confirmed that it was correct. But Mr Thomas believes he was given the wrong bill. “I’m not sure if they work for us,” he said.