Dear Editor

Is this official racist extortion?

I have heard from various ratepayers that the City of Johannesburg (COJ) suddenly, out of the blue, sends them an enormous account for electricity, under  threat that their electricity and/or water will be disconnected. In most cases the ratepayer has no independent proof that they did not use this amount of electricity.

In anticipation, I had an extra private meter installed at my house. And lo and behold I was targeted this year with an account that is R20,000 more than the electricity I have used. I thought: Oh well, this is going to be easy since I do have independent verification that the COJ is wrong. But it turned out not to be so easy.

My wife and I went to the COJ’s Randburg offices, and after a two-hour wait, while looking at clerks chatting and joking around instead of rapidly serving customers, we reached a Ms Naledi Udemeuzue. My wife informed her that the account from COJ does not tally with our private meter. Ms Udemeuzue immediately shouted at my wife: “What meter?”

My wife explained that we had had a separate meter installed by a qualified electrician. Ms Udemeuzue shouted again: “What meter?”

My wife produced a photograph of the meter, at which Ms Udemeuzue shouted: “I will not allow you to pay on your meter! ”  Agitated, I said to her: “Will you please listen to what we want to say?” Ms Udemeuzue shouted: “Don’t raise your voice at me!”

I responded: “I will raise my voice if you do not listen to what we have to say”. She then shouted: “I will not serve you any further. Please leave!” I said we would not leave until she had served us. She jumped up, moved to another cubicle and called the next customer. I moved to this cubicle and told that customer that she could not serve him since she had not finished serving us. She then jumped up and walked away. I walked with her. She shouted: “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me!” I said I was not touching her. She shouted: “Then what are you doing?” I responded: “I am walking with you until you serve us.”

Ms Udemeuzue then called a security guard and instructed him: “Please remove this man from this building.” I told him: “If you touch me it will be assault, and I will defend myself with force.” I then asked to be taken to somebody in charge.

I was taken to Ms Michelle van Staden, Operations Manager, Revenue. She was not Ms Udemeuzue’s immediate superior, who I later learned is Mr Nkwane Mohlala, since he was not in the building. But Ms Van Staden took note of the situation and advised us to get a complaint number about our electricity account, and promised to bring it to the attention of Ms Udemeuzue’s supervisor.

Once home I sent Van Staden an email to be forwarded to Mohlala, which she duly did. But I got no response. I then used the email Ms Van Staden had used for Mr Mohlala and found that my emails were being blocked. In retrospect I am convinced this was done on purpose.

We kept on getting notices that they were going to cut off our electricity and water. We wrote to the mayor, Mr Parks Tau, and were then contacted by telephone by “Morriss” who did not supply his full name. He asked whether we had a complaint number and assured us that since we had that, they could not cut our services. Soon after, another threatening notice was left on our gate. We phoned Morriss and he assured us again we had nothing to worry about.

But they did come and cut off our water. When we phoned, they said that they did clear our complaint. If they did, why did they not inform us and why are they still claiming R20,000 from us that we do not owe? We phoned Morriss, who now claimed there was nothing he could do. I told him it must be racism against white ratepayers. He did not deny this.

We were thus harassed and blackmailed into paying the R20,000 which we do not owe COJ. As a pensioner, I had to borrow this money and am thus paying unnecessary interest on it while COJ gets interest on money which they stole from me by blackmailing me. To add insult to injury, I also had to pay a reconnection fee.

Since then we’ve been asking around and at least three white people out of five have had the same experience. Owing to blackmail and harassment they had to pay over large amounts of money they do not owe. Interestingly I have not found a single lawyer who was targeted in the same manner. I have, however found people who offered to correct the account for a fee of R3,000. This indicates that they have contacts in COJ to which they pay kick-backs.

I can only conclude this is a well-thought-out, racist, criminal scam directed at white ratepayers. It also explains Ms Udemeuzue’s aggression.

Against whom must one serve criminal charges: the mayor, Tau? Is it not also a violation of our human rights?

Dr Johan F Prins

Rhodes’s secrets

It’s quite ironic really, the greatest empire in history was run by a bunch of bumboys and kiddy fiddlers (“The Secret Rhodes”, nose193). To this day the power of the pink dollar is not to be underestimated.

Richard Bennett
Online comment

• Online response to the above:

Bumboys and kiddy fiddlers? That’s enough to get one’s mouth washed out with soap in the Year 2015. Homosexuals and pederasts. And Rhodes did not leave his fortune to The Pink Dollar Society.
Rhodes and his “mates” do seem to have had a lot of time to do a lot of things. Is it so that in straight relationships there isn’t enough time for all of this?

R Young

• The Rhodes article’s obsession with homosexuality is surely uncalled for.

Peter Mansfield

The issue is very relevant in its historical context. It helps explain, inter alia, the culture of secrecy in which Rhodes and his circle operated. It also raises an interesting proposition: a gay hegemony. And, those were the chapters of Robin Brown’s new biography that the publisher offered us – not necessarily the ones I would have chosen, but fascinating nevertheless.Ed.

Human killers

Cattle were once wild. They are docile beautiful intelligent creatures bred to be slaughtered – often under inhumane conditions. So why condemn farmers who make a living out of breeding lions (nose193)?

In the light of reason it must be acknowledged that the “canned lion industry” – unethical though it is – plays its part in preserving the real wild lions by diverting human killers from them.

Michael Crampton

Mankind is omnivorous. We farm and kill cattle/sheep/chickens to eat, not for the pleasure of killing them. The argument that canned lion hunting helps preserve wild lions sounds as problematic as the argument that making drugs freely or cheaply available will help deal with the drug problem. It might also just help create a bigger market/more profit by lending legitimacy to a destructive activity.Ed.

Organ donors have no say

The Organ Donor Foundation raises funds, yet legislation dictates that next-of-kin must grant permission for organs to be donated; the deceased has zero say. So where is Organ Donor Foundation money going? Why is money even being raised?

Cape Town

We look forward to ODF’s response.Ed.

Page turner

Your compelling article on the South Deep gold mine in nose192 suggests that it is a financial black hole.

Sadly, on page 27, the second half of the article has been overwritten by a repeat of the first half. Will there be a way of getting the full article? 

James Sutherland
By email

A last-minute computer glitch that remained undetected until it was too late. The correct page was immediately placed on our website and posted (or emailed) to all who asked for it. Our claims to saintly perfection have, sadly, been demolished. Sorry. Ed.

Semper Helix

In duplicate beside the pond
The mirrored fern unfurls its frond,
The twisting leaf escapes the tree
And flutters downward spirally.

All things expire. The spring of Time
Uncurls with tick and tock and chime
That knells the universal end
When knots unravel, curves unbend.
The straight line on the cardiograph:
A spirit-level epitaph.

So let us praise while yet we may
Those things that take the tortuous way,
Which twist and turn spontaneously
To stem the trend to entropy

Gus Ferguson
from Icarus Rising, Selected Poems

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