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Tolerating the Indefensible

Without the slightest doubt ,the most extraordinary statement of the week came from the Water Utilities Corpration (WUC) Senior Communications and Public Relations Officer, Khumo Mugibelo in an article in The Voice headed “WUC is cheating Us.”

Mugibelo, it appears, said in regard to the WUC’s billing system,’ there is no possibility of wrongly charging customers.’ He made this quite outrageous claim when commenting on Scara Aphirie’s reproduced water bill, which showed that he owed P21,000. (The Voice November 24). Soon after I arrived in Mochudi, the people at the DR Mission told me about Rev. Willie Neethling who fell in 1897 from the church gable on which he had been working.

When people got to him as he lay dying on the ground, he had the time to make the very strange comment, ‘God makes no mistakes’, a comment which unsurprisingly entered immediately into DR church mythology.

In a way, Neethling’s would seem to be a statement of the obvious, distinctly odd when said at that particular moment but straightforward, nevertheless.

The problem with Mugibelo is that he seems to have got things surprisingly mixed up. As Neethling more or less said, it is only God who cannot make mistakes and it is not particularly helpful when Mugibelo puts himself in the same bracket. Yet here is Mugibelo who has been given responsibility for dealing with the public on the basis, presumably, of his proven past record and abilities. There can be few others in similar position, however, indeed few people anywhere who would have the temerity to make similar claims about themselves.  Even the highest in the land makes mistakes so one might wonder how Mugibelo contrived to set himself apart from everyone else.

Can Mugibelo really be unaware of the litany of complaints made over the years that the WUC, almost routinely, lands people with demands for astronomical amounts of money which bear no relation to the monthly consumption figures. It must be said that the WUC has consistently held fast to the policy position described by Mugibelo and it may be that he is doing no more than reiterating comments made by his many predecessors.

The public’s outrage should be more correctly and perhaps more fairly be directed at the WUC than at the hapless Mugibelo particularly because it happened to be his bad luck that The Voice was happy to report Aphirie’s justified outrage.

The fact is that the WUC’s racket has been allowed to go on for far too long. It is possible that a stop might have been put to it had MPs up and down the country done what they

are supposed to do by taking on responsibility for their constituents’ problems. Unfortunately, our MPs rarely do so, being oblivious to such needs.

Their failure to take up with the WUC issues of gross overcharging has left its customers with almost no means of redress. In addition, it can be sadly noted that successive Ministers have been as indifferent to this major problem as the MPs.

None could claim that they didn’t know because erratic overcharging by the WUC has been a norm for many years. It seems, however, that they too saw no reason for intervening.

An intriguing element of this bizarre saga is that the WUC, whilst so set on pursuing its individual customers, is reluctant – or so it seems – to cut its supplies to government institutions which, by previous report, owe it vast sums of money.

Might the relevant Ministers have feared to get themselves entangled in an inevitably messy conflict with their Ministerial colleagues and were therefore, reluctant to get involved?

Successive Ministers appear to have been party to a neither-the-one-nor-the-other arrangement by which the WUC carries over in its books each year, the huge sum owed to it by government departments whilst vengefully demanding that its individual customers pay entirely fictitious and totally dishonest amounts that it claims are its due. 

It really is past belief that the WUC has been unwilling to admit the possibility that, its meters, like God, cannot ever be faulty. With no other supplier available – the WUC has, of course, a monopoly -  the wretched customer is obliged to terminate his/her WUC connection in case it continues charging him/her ridiculous amounts of money, buy jojos and somehow fill them, and accept that their personal lives and businesses have been ruined without the WUC needing to do other than to claim that all the customer’s taps must have been leaking, that they had been engaged in massive building works or that they have repeatedly filled their non-existent swimming pools.

The poor customer could, I suppose, seek legal redress but would this mean spending, say, P10,000 in order to save P10,000? Or would this matter come within the purview of the small claims court although its role, judging by its name, would not inspire much hope.

It’s amazing, in its way, that problems that hit the voter so hard are never taken up as a serious political issue.

Etcetera II



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