Nelson Mandela Bay residents protest high water bills

Water Crisis Committee leader says the municipal billing system is flawed

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

29 June 2023

People protest outside the city hall in Gqeberha on Thursday, demanding that their water bills be scrapped. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

About 100 residents from across Gqeberha protested outside the city hall on Thursday, demanding that their water bills be scrapped.

They were led by the Nelson Mandela Bay Water Crisis Committee and the Makukhanye Rural Movement. Placards read, “Water is a right” and “Enough is enough – water for all”. They sang songs, such as Amabhul’ amnyama andenziwari (Black boers make me worried).

Ntombizanele Kima, from ward 44, Kariega, said she owed the municipality R25,000. She lives in a four-room house with her three grandchildren. “As a pensioner, I keep on asking myself this question: where am I going to get this money?”

Water Crisis Committee leader Siyabulela Mama posted on Facebook: “In August 2022, the Water Crisis Committee invited Joseph Tsatsire [Acting Executive Director for Infrastructure and Engineering] to a meeting with residents of Chris Hani.

“They complained that they were receiving water bills while their services were shut off for seven months. Tsatsire explained the continuous billing resulted from meters’ reading the air pressure running through the pipes.

“He promised in this meeting to cancel the water bills for Chris Hani. We are still waiting for the municipality to act on its promise.”

Mama wrote that the municipal billing system was flawed.

But Tsatsire told GroundUp, “I am with infrastructure and engineering and do not deal with accounts.”

He said, “The individuals must go to customer care centres managed by Budget & Treasury and log their complaints. They will be dealt with on an individual basis on their merits.”

Mxolisi Mani, from the speaker’s office, accepted the petition.