POLOKWANE – One resident, Esmé van Dyk, wanted to know how one can budget when the prepaid meters are installed after having paid the municipal bill a few days prior, leaving residents to pay for electricity again by buying pre-paid units in order to have electricity.
“The installation of the new meters meant two months’ electricity had to be paid in one month, and would have to be done again next month as the municipal accounts are for the usage of two months prior. The municipality should assist residents with a plan for phasing in the prepaid meters. Some people had to borrow money to buy more electricity after the installation. I don’t know what my neighbours, both pensioners and receiving only South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants, will do,” she said.
Aside from this unexpected expense, she added her prepaid card was not registered. They were informed they had to take the card to an outlet and buy electricity, but could not do so as the card was not registered.
To register the card they had to go to the municipality, pay a parking fee and have the card registered. This was not an isolated incident as their elderly neighbour found out at 17:00 in the afternoon when he wanted to buy electricity that his card was also not registered. She said he had to make use of a candle for light and ask his daughter to bring warm water in a flask.
Van Dyk said she was told the smart water meters were planned to be installed as well.
Municipal Spokesperson, Matshidiso Mothapo, said prior to the municipality and its contractors entering a particular neighbourhood to install electricity and water meters, notice will be given to the residents of that area via public platforms as well as information packs which will be dropped off at each household.
“The municipality also conducts community meetings where the community is engaged on the installation,” he said. Van Dyk , however, is adamant that neither they nor their neighbours were informed in any way about the forthcoming installations.
Mothapo said these information packs contain information about the smart meters, frequently asked questions and answers, names and images of the installers, as well as contact details where the authenticity of the contractors can be verified.
“We are currently running a maintenance programme where electricity prepaid meters and conventional water meters that have been reported to be faulty are replaced with smart meters because the municipality is not keeping stock of the old meters as this is not financially feasible,” he said. “The smart water meters that are being installed are currently on post-paid mode and therefore there shouldn’t be challenges with budgeting issues.”
He added the municipality has set up a Smart Metering Support Centre which can be called at 087 350 2770 or SMS 32915 and anyone experiencing problems can contact the support centre.