Eskom sent her a R74‚000 bill. When Wendy Manuel questioned them‚ their gloves came off. A report from the Public Protector instructed the Energy
Regulator (Nersa) to act as the mediator in the matter after it found that Eskom officials appeared to have “fabricated an affidavit” which accused Manuel of tampering with her meter box.
Because Manuel refused to pay the bill‚ her power was cut for more than a year. Her business‚ one of the first black female owned engineering companies‚ went bankrupt.
“I’m at home without a job‚ my son is at home without a job‚ my husband is now actually a labourer‚” she said.
She said her husband Sean van der Poll is now working for one of their former clients whom they also had to sell their engineering machines to.
Manuel’s fight with the power utility began in 2008 when she was slapped with a R19‚000 bill. Eskom claimed this includes an accumulated amount she was not billed for between 2004 and 2008. Then the figure climbed to R74‚000 in 2016 due to interest. Last week Nersa issued a damning report against Eskom.
Nersa submitted that it is “difficult” to comprehend how Eskom failed to bill Manuel for almost four years.
“It is further beyond comprehension when the customer has submitted that she visited Eskom several times to request her bills and the same never triggered Eskom to look into the account‚” the report read.
The report‚ which was requested by the Public Protector‚ gives settlement options to Manuel and Eskom.
These include writing off of the amount she owes.
“I’m waiting on the final report from the Public Protector. After that I’m suing for damages‚” she said.