A retirement home in Lyttelton has obtained an urgent order in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to stop the Tshwane municipality from cutting off its electricity, saying it was “truly a matter of life and death” for many of its elderly patients.
Judge Vivian Tlhapi granted an order interdicting the city from disrupting the electricity supply to the Protea Aftree Oord Heuwelsig pending the outcome of a dispute about an amount of more than R500 000, which the city said was outstanding on the home’s electricity bill. But this was on condition the retirement village had to buy prepaid electricity from the city.
The home’s manager, Lucia Kok, in court papers said the municipality had threatened to cut off electricity supply unless more than R520 000 was paid within 72 hours. In July 2014, the city insisted the home make use of a prepaid electricity system and a smart prepaid meter was installed. But earlier this year, the home was then notified an adjustment would be applied as a result of too low consumption due to a wiring issue with the meter.
Kok said the village was occupied by 350 elderly people with an average age of 84, some of whom were on permanent oxygen ventilators that operated on electricity. They also had a care centre with 36 patients receiving care. If the electricity supply were disrupted, it would render their care ineffective and might even result in severe discomfort or death.
She described the city’s conduct as “absolutely ridiculous”, saying having only three days to raise more than half a million rand was preposterous.
The occupants were pensioners who could not afford to pay the shortfall from their fairly meagre pensions, Kok said. The home had lodged an appeal and attempted to resolve the issue with the help of attorneys, but the city insisted they had enough time to pay the outstanding amount. According to Kok, the home wanted an expert to investigate the allegations about incorrect wiring, saying arrangements would be made to pay off the amount if it turned out the city was owed.