Residents feel 'ripped off' by KZN municipality

EMPANGENI - Ngwelezane township residents are at loggerheads with the uMhlatuze municipality over the cost of basic services.

Residents living on tribal land in a KwaZulu-Natal township say they have been battling for more than a decade for cheaper rates, however, the City of uMhlatuze said there was no other way.

The 60 families, who live on land belonging to the Ingonyama Trust in Empangeni, say the municipality had demanded exorbitant connection fees they simply could not afford.

The City wants to charge them a connection fee of up to R29,000 per household for services.

Ngwelezane Township is a close-knit community. However, a visible divide has become more clear between the &39;haves&39; and &39;have nots.&39;

The Mabaso family survives on about R1,000 a month and has lived in near-darkness for 12 years.

Resident Qinisani Mabaso said: "When I get home from school, I can&39;t study well. Sometimes I have only have a small piece of candle left and the shops have closed. I still have homework to do and I can&39;t finish it."

For them and many others, the morning brings new challenges of finding fresh water to drink or wash.

Vukile Mathabela of City of uMlathuze said: "The chief, as a developer, didn&39;t pay us the money to connect so each household has to pay an amount that&39;s going to assist. But we&39;ve said is that, because we&39;ve realised that the amount might be a bit too much for some of them, they must start to...each household must negotiate with us the terms of payments."

The City said it was prepared to engage with the community to help it get access to electricity and running water.