The City of Cape Town fined an 87-year-old Brooklyn woman R7 500 after accusing her of “tampering” with her electricity box.
But Molly Zeman denies doing any such thing and says cooking a simple meal became a chore after the City started siphoning off half her electricity units to get the money it said she owed.
Ms Zeman lives with her mentally disabled son in a Communicare house in Brooklyn. Her husband died nine years ago.
A letter Ms Zeman got from the City on Wednesday August 7 accused her of breaking an electricity-supply by-law. Another letter came last Tuesday, telling her she had to pay a “contravention amount” of R 7 627.
“In the event of first tampering, the amount will be loaded onto the prepayment meter which will be deducted at 50% of each purchase made,” the letter says.
Ms Zeeman said she could barely cook a pot of food now without her units running out.
“I bought a R40 electricity and only got eight units. I’ve switched off the hot water too to save units. This is making me sick. How am I supposed to pay this money to the council?”
Ms Zeman gets a monthly pension of R1 700, and her son’s disability grant is the same amount.
Phindile Maxiti, the Mayco member for energy and climate change, said an inspector had found the insulation on the live conductor on either side of the meter had been skinned in the connection box – a typical sign of an attempted bypass, he said.
But the inspection didn’t find a bypass, said Mr Maxiti, just evidence that one had been there.
“At the time of inspection on August 7, a bypass was not in place. However, it is deemed that there was a bypass in place at some point, therefore a tamper notice was issued,” he said.
Further investigation into the matter will be done, said Mr Maxiti.
“The City will liaise with Communicare and the tenant to look into this query regarding evidence related to the tampering, including whether a previous tenant in the property had tampered with the meter,” he said.
Ms Zeman said she had lived in the house since 1958.
The garnishment on her prepaid meter would be lifted pending the outcome of the investigation, he said.
Communicare spokeswoman Michelle Matthee said all electricity meters at Communicare’s free-standing houses belonged to the City.
“Tenants buy their electricity directly from the City. All letters from the City are delivered to the residential address, and unless a tenant informs us of such notices, we would be unaware of the situation. We have been in contact with both the tenant and the City of Cape Town in this particular instance and are waiting on the outcome of the City’s investigation,” said Ms Matthee.