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The WUC campaign of extortion and rapine

KGOSIETSILE NGAKAAGAE
Water Utilities Corporation must be prosecuted for thuggery and extortion because that is essentially their core business now.

The corporation has morphed into a criminal entity. It makes no sense that a government entity thrives through brazenly stealing from Batswana and impoverishing them. I even wonder as to the impact that their indecent killing is causing upon business. They are making both the cost of living and the cost of business to go high. Average Batswana have little or no money and the last thing they need is an extortionate service provider that their lives depend upon. Lest you think I speak from bitterness, let me advise that I don’t have a bill from them presently.

But many people have and daily, you see cases of their extortionate billing amongst people you know. And yes, my parents homestead has been there. We have had to pay bill upwards of P5, 000 even when my little sister was staying all alone. And by the way, I pay phone bills running into tens of thousands almost every other month.

I have never complained about those. BTCL would readily give you clear, itemised billing down to the last second. In fact, I can well recall a time when the BTCL came up with a bogus billing system that wreaked havoc upon the population. The newly introduced billing system was so obscene, the nation squealed. Two things set BTCL apart from their more important, thieving water siblings. Firstly, BTCL acknowledged that their billing system was bogus and that Batswana were suffering injustice. Secondly, they did something about it. They moved speedily to make amends. And yes, they are a monopoly just like WUC. What more, it was the turn of the century and cellphones were the in-thing.

Batswana had an option. So those of us who could, simply disconnected our lines to protect ourselves from the mass rapine. Of course you can do that with BTCL. You cannot do that with WUC. You can’t boycott water. It’s a matter of life and death. Yet when they disconnect you to extort money from you, they don’t look back.

Batswana are crying, and no one is listening. Certainly, not WUC. The said reality of it all is that Batswana are slapped with heavy bills and then disconnected without notice. So do businesses. We literally suffer whilst wrestling with a monopoly institution that has no sense of fairness and decency. How do you engage meaningfully with someone who has a hand on your throat throughout the negotiation process.

And you guessed right, there’s no clear and effective dispute resolution procedure. If ever there is, it is not a speedy one. In any case, it cannot be a fair one because it is internal and inherently biased. When you simply query the bill, they demand an extortionate amount upfront, and almost invariably blame it on an nonexistent water leakage on your side.

You waste money getting people to check leaks you know aren’t there. Now water is a basic right and across the world, there’s near universal consensus that it be made a human right. Yet, this basic necessity is being used as a tool of extortion. WUC are aware that Batswana have no choice. WUC are not doing Batswana justice.

Of course there is

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a problem with us as consumers. There is no concerted consumer effort to engage WUC and to pressure them into rectifying matters. The entity almost invariably gets away with murder. We all deal with our extortionate bills individually even though we are dealing with a case of deliberate mass rapine by a State institution. As such we are fair game to this colossus. Further, there has been no effort by us, as the concerned, to litigate on WUC’s billing system and to hold them to account. If we litigate well enough, perhaps the arrogance would stop and they will become sensitive to the people’s plight. Perhaps that’s the direction we should be heading.

WUC deserve mass action to stop the rapine and to recover all the money they have stolen from Batswana. The last time the corporation attempted to explain the extortion, they gave some cock an’ bull story about using estimates based on historical consumption. They justified it on the basis that the system is used in other places in the world. They do not care to draw parallels between the living conditions of our people and the people of those countries, let alone system efficiencies that guard against unfair estimates as the ones we are seeing. They apply a copy and paste approach without regard to whether in the end their billing system does justice to Batswana.

Fine, we hear all about estimates billing. No one disputes that they copied it from somewhere. We are simply saying it does not work here either because they are deliberately dishonest or systemically inefficient. I still want to hear why my neighbour in Mahalapye would be paying P100 whilst the next house is paying P5, 000 and I am paying P10, 000 yet they use more water than I do and there is none amongst us moulding bricks or doing gardening. My position is that it is plain theft. It is not over-billing. That is to dignify a criminal activity. It is criminal. One of the ways that the affected may need to approach this issue is to evaluate the possibility of a private prosecution against the WUC management to run parallel with a mass action, civil case.

Otherwise Batswana will continue to be harassed and abused by obscene charges which are not based on any reality. I speak as a Motswana, and I speak as a victim. There is still no explanation why WUC have not made the prepaid option available for those who would like to switch to it. There is no explanation why they are stalling. I believe that such a system, introduced on a voluntary basis would go a long way towards water conservation and fair billing. I’d rather share the cost of the technology once than be slapped monthly with an extortionate P10, 000 bill.

BPC have done it, and WUC can do it. I have peace with BPC, if we put aside network issues and power outages. I am arguing for the Water Utilities Management executives and the corporation to be prosecuted. At the same time they must be sure. A re kolekeng, and stop this senseless plunder.



Chief On Friday

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