Mayor Patricia de Lille to investigate city officials in prepaid metre mess
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
It took a telephone call to the highest office at the City of Cape Town yesterday before a single mother in Mitchell’s Plain had her electricity turned back on.
Fahma Adams, who lives with her two children, had been without electricity since Wednesday. By yesterday morning she had found Mayor Patricia de Lille’s mobile phone number and contacted her regarding the inconvenience.
Adams alleged that her electricity was cut off because she refused to allow the City of Cape Town to install a prepaid electricity metre at her house.
“On Wednesday I came home and my lights were not on. I phoned the city’s electricity department every day since then and they said their team was struggling to find my house,” said Adams.
“While waiting for them, my children and I have washed in cold water.”
There were other disastrous consequences for the family too, said Adams, who is a local school teacher.
“My whole month’s food in my fridge went off because we didn’t have electricity. I had to give the food to dogs and cats outside. I had to get rid of everything. That makes me so upset.”
Adams said her 12-year-old son “went to braai a chicken in the yard” as their electric appliances could not be used to cook food.
“He had to make a fire and made a braai. On Thursday night I had to ask my sister to make food. On Friday night I ate at my sister’s house. I couldn’t even drink a cup of tea at my house. I had to go to my neighbour’s house,” said Adams.
“My children were so upset because they couldn’t watch TV. They were bored at night and had to go to bed early. We burnt candles and to keep them positive I was singing Happy Birthday while holding the candles.”
When the matter became unbearable, Adams contacted De Lille.
“I sent her a text message. She sent me a message back and said she phoned the electricity department to put my power on immediately,” said Adams.
By yesterday afternoon, Adams was thanking God for an end to her misery.
Weekend Argus contacted De Lille to confirm the incident.
“She contacted me this morning. I told the department to put her electricity back on. On Monday I’m going to do a full investigation to find out what happened,” said De Lille.
Adams said the matter started on November 5 last year when a City of Cape Town official came to her house with a letter. Adams was still at work and her children received the letter.
It stated: “An agent of the electricity services department visited your premises and was unable to access the premises.
“Please phone the above mentioned number so the department agent can gain access to the premises to carry out the necessary work. Failure to comply with the request in 14 days will result in disconnecting your service without further notice.”
Adams said she was told she needed to accept the city’s installation of a prepaid electricity metre. She said she did not want a prepaid metre, preferring to settle her electricity bill at the end of each month.
“I budget to pay my electricity bill at the end of every month. It normally comes to about R300. I don’t want to buy electricity every time. Some people work like that but then they don’t have money for electricity when they didn’t get their salary yet,” she said.
“It’s more convenient to pay at the end of the month because you can budget around it. There are other people who also don’t want the electricity boxes.”
Adams said three weeks ago a city official returned to her house and tried to force her to sign a document agreeing that she would have a prepaid metre installed.
“A man came to my house and said he was coming to put in a box (electricity metre). He said If I don’t want a box then ‘Just sign here’. Then I read the sentence on the letter that read, ‘I hereby agree to install a metre box’. I got so mad,” said Adams.
“I said to him, ‘You want me to sign this after I told you that I don’t want a metre box? This is my concern’. I refused to sign it and then my electricity was cut.”
Adams said there are other households in Mitchell’s Plain where families also did not want the prepaid metre installed.
“There are a lot of people who said they refused. Some people can’t even read and what if they just signed the document? Our community needs to be made aware of this,” said Adams.
“The man who came to my house said this was part of the law. I don’t even know about this law. What kind of service is that?”
De Lille said locals had a choice on whether they wanted a prepaid electricity metre or not.
“It’s not the policy of the city that you must have a prepaid electricity metre. I don’t have one. It’s a choice. We will investigate this on Monday,” said De Lille.