Business owners were left in the dark recently after Buffalo City Municipality cut off their electricity with no warning or explanation, according to building owner Alan Hawkins.
“I only found out at eight on a Friday morning that the power was cut off. I was given no warning or notice that this would be happening. I assumed that it was due to late payment of my bills, so I immediately paid more than R15000 for this and last month’s power. By 8.45am I had already paid and forwarded a proof of payment to BCM,” said Hawkins.
“For four hours, I and one of my employees tried, in vain, to get hold of BCM to find out what the issue was. By noon, we had only managed to get through once but were immediately hung up on,” he said.
Hawkins said that he gave up on trying to contact BCM and instead hired an electrician and builder, whom he had to pay R500 each, to try and find the fault.
“It was only after my electrician had contacted the BCM technical department that we found out we were cut off over bill payments. This was on the Monday. I must say the technical department was very quick and got back to us within 24 hours.
“They [BCM] claim to have switched the power back on on the Friday. My tenant told me at four that afternoon that it was still not on, so what constituted Friday?” asked Hawkins.
Hawkins admitted that he was at fault for the late payment but said that he was frustrated over the lack of any warning before his building’s electricity was cut.
“Let me acknowledge up front that the late payment is my own fault. By way of explanation, and not an excuse, we left for a three-week stay in Botswana and this was immediately followed by a death in the family. These two things and a buildup of other backlogs led to me missing my payment,” he said.
“We live in a world of SMS, e-mail and other immediate communication options. Why not contact those with bills outstanding and give them 24-hours notice? I guarantee this would eliminate problems and make life easier for all of us,” said Hawkins.
One of the business owners, Zandile Sisika, who owns Sisika Business Accountants, said: “I lost money because of this. We rely on electricity to use the internet and run the business. The power went out on that Thursday at noon. It was off on Friday and Saturday as well. It only came on on the Monday. I employ six people and for all these days we could do no work.”
“We couldn’t get through to BCM and when we eventually did, the line would cut off,” said Sisika.
lBCM spokeswoman Bathandwa Diamond said: “All consumers who are in arrears are sent a 14-day pre-termination notice advising that if they should not pay within the 14 days, credit-control action will be implemented.
“Once proof of payment is provided, the consumer will be placed on the reconnection list and will be reconnected the same day.”
She said if a BCM resident’s power is cut off, they could contact the call centre on 0861113017 or visit the nearest revenue management office.