eThekwini apologises for festive low-blow as it tries to recover funds lost through a ‘technical error’

The eThekwini Municipality has apologised to around 49,000 residents after asking them to cough up thousands of rands for utilities because of a ‘technical error’. File Picture: Kim Ludbrook

The eThekwini Municipality has apologised to around 49,000 residents after asking them to cough up thousands of rands for utilities because of a ‘technical error’. File Picture: Kim Ludbrook

Published Dec 22, 2023


It never rains but it pours in the eThekwini Municipality, and somehow, it's always the taxpayers who end up fitting the bill.

This, as the latest water saga involving the Municipality and infuriated residents rages on where citizens of the city were lumped with heavy ‘adjusted“ water bills just ahead of Christmas.

Durban residents were asked to pay back the money for 216 kilolitres of water that the eThekwini Municipality erroneously gave away because of an inability to properly manage its assets.

The City has now apologised for the “adjusted bills”, saying it was a result of a technical blunder.

This so-called technical error had to do with the six kilolitre free basic water, which was incorrectly given to taxpayers in the city whose homes were thought to be valued at R250,000 or less.

The adjustment listed on a latest utility bill from the eThekwini Municipality. Picture: Supplied

IOL initially reported that 45,000 households were affected, but according to the Municipality, that figure is around 49,000 households.

“According to the City’s Indigent Policy, customers whose properties fall below R250,000 in value are eligible for six kilolitres of free water per month. However, due to a technical error, about 49,000 out of the billed 514,000 accounts, were credited with the free water and that is what the City will be recovering,” eThekwini spokesperson Mandla Nsele said.

“The Municipality suggested that disgruntled residents visit the Sizakala centres to make payment arrangements.

“As a result of the error and as long as customers come forward, they will not be disconnected from services or charged interest retrospectively.”

But the Sizakala centres are an unhelpful place, according to the chairman of the eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement or EPRM, Asad Gaffer.

Gaffer spoke to IOL about the new bill adjustment introduced to Durbanites.

The EPRM is also assisting affected residents by helping them fill out their dispute forms, as many are elderly individuals without the knowledge and logistical prowess to oversee the process that has been forced on them by their government.

IOL has also seen a copy of an adjusted bill, which details that the City is requesting to claw back funds from 2020 to 2023 for the free six kilolitres which it erroneously gave away.

That means the residents whose homes were once thought to be valued at R250,000 or less, but which are not, will now have to pay the City thousands of rands in an already financially-paralysing economic period.

To make matters worse, there was no prior notice or communication given to residents about the blunder.

“We understand that water is charged on a sliding scale, but this has nothing to do with that. It is a back charge, and worst, it is because the municipality made a mistake on their part, which they have acknowledged.

“The main problem is that the city waited until November to give people these new bills. They did not have the decency to issue a notice at least three or six months beforehand.

“This free water issue dates back to 2010. They had around 13 years to figure out something was wrong with their system, and they did nothing. Now they want people to pay for their mistake,” Gaffer said.