Thousands of people have been queuing to get their electricity reconnected in Nelson Mandela Bay. This follows the municipality cutting off electricity accounts to over 34,000 households, who were receiving Assistance to the Poor (ATTP) benefits, because the account holders died.
The queues stretch all over the townships and the city. At the municipality's Customer Care offices in KwaNobuhle township, Uitenhage, the queue was one of the longest, and started as early as 7am on Wednesday morning.
Nelson Mandela Bay mayoral spokesman Gerorge Geleba said between March and May last year letters had been delivered by hand to 34,057 households who were receiving ATTP benefits even though the account holder was deceased. "In terms of the ATTP policy, beneficiaries of a deceased property owner must re-apply for ATTP benefits once the account holder has passed away."
On 6 August a final notice letter was posted to the 20,299 households who had not responded, Geleba said. Ward councillors were asked to call public meetings to remind the households to reply before the deadline of 30 September, and messages were sent to the cell numbers where numbers had been registered.
"Loud hailing was undertaken daily by officials from 12pm to 6pm in the affected wards during the period 16 to 30 September 2019, to remind beneficiaries of the deadline of 30 September 2019," he said.
Those who had not re-applied found their electricity accounts cut, mostly in December last year.
Luvuyo Jonas, 33, who is living in a house registered in his late mother's name, said he did receive letters from the municipality demanding documents, including certified copies of his mother's ID. "Not all of us keep the IDs of the deceased."
"We ignored those municipal letters because not all of us can read English." But Geleba said the letters had been sent in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa.
Widow Nolulamile Lucas, 80, from KwaNobuhle, whose house is registered in her late husband's name, said that she arrived at the customer care centre in the early hours on Monday this week, but was only served on Tuesday morning.
"I woke up at 5am on Monday and they turned me back after 10am. They said, even though I stood in the queue for hours, they needed a letter of authority that confirms that I am now the owner of my house and that my husband died long ago. They also wanted his death certificate and the amount we spent to bury him! We have to go back to the funeral parlour to mention my husband's names."
Lucas walked out of the customer care building using crutches, alongside her daughter, Ndileka, 44, who is unemployed.
Ndileka said she had been told to prepare an affidavit stating she was unemployed. She had been to and from the police station to get the affidavit only to be told later that it was not necessary.
Meanwhile, she said, "We are living in the darkness as they cut off electricity a few weeks ago."
Geleba said as at 13 January 2020, only 4,030 of the 20,299 remaining households had re-applied for ATTP benefits.
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