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There’s the timeless phrase which says no matter how bad your day is, there’s always someone worse off. And the following letter from a member of the Biznews community puts this into perspective. Alec Hogg’s R89 000 water bill generated lots of interest and given the amount of feedback there it’s only fair that the following is highlighted. Dennis de Necker’s electricity bill for the month of May 2015 was a staggering R563 000, this after he got the all new improved ‘smartmeter’. And it’s a household of 3. Almost a year later and the matter is still not solved and while his lights are still on, potential darkness lies around the corner. And in true South African spirit, Dennis has offered to pay Alec’s bill, if he pays his. One has to wonder if common sense will prevail. – Stuart Lowman
By Dennis de Necker
Having read your ‘Daily Insider’ experience with your water meter, I found it impossible to respond immediately, as I needed to reach for my handkerchief in order to mop up the tears.
I really feel for you.
However, in order to improve your day, I am more than happy to pay the account on your behalf.
There is just one proviso – you reciprocate by paying my Joburg City Council (City Power) electricity account.
I appear to have been the unknowing recipient of a new ‘smartmeter’ sometime earlier last year.
There was no warning, no celebration, no formal cutting of the ribbon – not even a ‘joint final reading’ of the trusty old mechanical meter that seemed to do the job for over 30 years.
The only way I knew of this happy occasion was when I received my May 2015 account, showing that 3x people in my house have inexplicably used electricity in ONE month to the value of R563,380.10 (that’s right – OVER HALF A MILLION RAND) substantiated by the words ‘actual reading’ and reflecting a daily average consumption of 13,218.819kWh.
Let’s put this in perspective:
While these figures may be meaningless to the layman, the statement for the previous month (2 April 2015 to 1 May 2015) shows an ‘actual’ reading amounting to R 4,657.60 for a daily average usage of 105.265kWh.
A cumulative ‘actual reading’ account received from City Power for the period 27/11/2013 to 01/03/2015, reflects a daily average usage of 64.820 kWh as an average over a 460-day period (15 months).
After all these years on our planet, truly believing that I know everything worth knowing, I have now suddenly learnt that a simple word such as ‘inflation’ does not just relate to pricing and waistlines, but also to the electrical consumption of our trusted plug-in appliances and light bulbs.
Despite the fact that I am making payments ‘in good faith’ of R5 000 per month, I now apparently owe the ‘powers that be’ an amount in excess of R 1,2m (yes – one million two hundred thousand Rand).
Instead of displaying a message cautioning me to adopt a more frugal lifestyle, my monthly statements merely state: YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED THAT UNLESS IMMEDIATE PAYMENT OF THE OUTSTANDING AMOUNT IS MADE THE COUNCIL WILL ISSUE INSTRUCTION TO CUT OFF SERVICES AND INSTITUTE LEGAL ACTION.
Am I paying for Nkandla?
Or perhaps for the gated estate next door?
Have I taken any action to try and remedy this blatantly excessive usage?
Yes – I have spoken to all our electrical appliances and even threatened them with the local refuse dump – all to no avail.
Sure I have investigated various alternatives – one being a ‘completely off the grid’ solar solution for less than R250 000 (being less than half of my May account).
I also took the normal ‘gut reaction’ approach of visiting the municipal offices in Randburg. After two hours of queuing, their response was hostile and uncooperative. I was also told that ‘I am in the wrong queue and that I must go to the queue where I can make arrangements to pay off the debt’.
As a result of then becoming ‘persona non grata’ at Randburg, (could it be because of my attitude or my refusal to pay up?) I headed for the Roodepoort offices the following month – pleasant reception, lovely promises – no action.
As my appetite for electricity became insatiable, I decided to approach higher-ranking members within the ‘organisation’, as I realized that I now needed ‘urgent help’ with my addiction.
A fully detailed and documented letter was then sent to Yumna Sheik – Spokesperson for City Power – I received an acknowledgement within hours, and to make me really feel that we were getting somewhere, the letter was signed:
Office of the Managing Director
40 Heronmere Road, Reuven, Johannesburg
Was I dreaming, or were my woes now actually over?
Was the top of the top now getting involved with my tiny problem?
What makes the typical South African so optimistic?
Three months later, following more massive monthly consumption, a follow-up letter was sent to the Aide-de-Camp … silence.
A month later, a further letter was sent to the Aide-de-Camp, Rev Frank Chikane (City Power Chairperson), Mr Sicelo Xulu (City Power Managing Director), Councillor Parks Tau (Executive Mayor of Johannesburg), the Johannesburg Ombudsman, Nkanyiso Msomi (City Power General Manager – North) and Noel Maso (City Power Area Manager – Roodepoort).
Fortunately I did not hold my breath – they are probably all away on a ‘bosberaad’ or a candle-making course……..
Do you have an e-mail address for Jacob Zuma?
Elon Musk? (I think I will be needing very powerful batteries shortly).
If my ‘swop’ offer appeals to you, please contact me in order that we can formalise the exchange.
Yours in potential darkness.
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