KNYSNA NEWS - In a rare public display of disapproval, Knysna's Hornlee residents, normally not a riotous community, closed the N2 at the end of last month – and again this week Monday and Tuesday – to be heard on various issues, including the municipality's plans to install new water meters.
On Monday last week (1 April), the community handed over a memorandum with a list of their demands to mayor Mark Willemse as well as the province's MEC for Housing Bonginkosi Madikizela at the municipality's building in Clyde Street.
'Remove the meters'
The memorandum included demands that the prepaid water meters be removed; that land from which they were forcefully removed by the apartheid government be given back to them; fair compensation for those who were deprived of their land; and that dwellings and service delivery be made available to backyard dwellers.
They gave the municipality seven working days to respond.
After several engagements between the community and deputy mayor Ricky Van Aswegen and councillor Donovan Poffader, the residents' mouthpiece Hornlee United issued a statement on 4 April accusing the two councillors of coercing some residents by allegedly telling them if they agree to have the meters installed their debt with the municipality would be cleared.
Residents who do not agree to this would be handed over to attorneys and stand a chance to lose their homes, it was further alleged.
Van Aswegen responded to these allegations on Monday 8 April saying it was a council resolution to have the meters installed in all areas and that he suggested the project start in his ward because they have a problem with high water accounts due to outdated meters in the area.
"No-one is forced to have water meters, it's on a voluntary basis, but all people will receive prepaid water meters.
"The people in my area have high water accounts and I did say we should consider writing off their accounts because I know some can never afford to pay the debt and (it would) give them an opportunity to start afresh with the new meters."
Poffader also denied the allegations and said the meters are installed as a measure to help residents manage their water and that it is not forced on anyone.
'Factually incorrect information'
The municipality also responded to the press release by Hornlee United, saying it is rolling out the installation of water management devices in indigent and unmetered areas, which would later be rolled out in the rest of the municipal area but that any household may apply to have the meters installed sooner.
"The information in the press release of Hornlee United is factually incorrect. The majority of the residents have welcomed the installation of water meters and installation is progressing well. Approximately 342 water management devices have been installed to date," their response read.
In a press release, the municipality listed the advantages of water meters, which read: "No more meter reading estimates; no more bill surprises; better control on consumption; easier monthly budgeting; promoting responsible use of resources."
Town 'in jeopardy'
Hornlee United, in its statement last week, also mentioned that it has reported the matter to the SA Human Rights Commission.
A member of the organisation, Neil Louw, told Knysna Plett Herald on Wednesday 10 April that "things are going to become extreme and that the economy of the town is in jeopardy".
When asked for more details, he said that this was all he could say at the moment.
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