MASERU – The Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) has been hauled to court for unilaterally disconnecting one of its clients’ water supply in a bid to force the client to pay arrears on his water bill. Maseru magistrate court on Monday ordered WASCO to immediately restore water connection and supply to one Rasetla Mofoka’s premises at Lithabaneng in Maseru, pending finalisation of the matter.
Mofoka, who is represented by MS Legal Minds Chambers, filed an urgent application at Maseru magistrate court on Monday. He told the court in his application that WASCO personnel stormed his property on August 19, 2021, “terrorized” his tenants and uprooted a water meter, “thereby cutting off water supply to my property”. WASCO has recently started disconnecting services for customers it accused of failing to pay their outstanding bills.
The disconnections, which began in Maseru villages including Lower Thetsane, Matala Phase II, and Lithabaneng, among others, and affected several business establishments, are expected to spread to other areas across the country. But Mofoka refers to WASCO’s spirited operation as self-help. Self-help, in legal sense, refers to individuals or organisations’ implementation of their rights without resorting to a legal order issued by a competent court.
Mofoka’s woes with WASCO, he told the court, started in February 2020 when he received a call from the utility’s billing section informing him that he had an outstanding bill amounting to M7 800. “The last bill I had received was in the range of M400. On inquiry I was informed that the huge arrears were resultant of incorrect billings made by WASCO for over a period of six past years,” he said in his founding affidavit.
He said after several failed attempts to have a meeting with WASCO’s legal department, he wrote a letter on august 31, 2020, demanding that he be issued with a written justification “for the shocking bill”. The letter, he added, also requested WASCO to state in writing if indeed it intended to resort to self-help and illegally cut his water connection.
He further explained that after he sent the letter to WASCO, he received from its legal department informing him that their offices were closed to curb spread of the coronavirus and that they would arrange a meeting as soon as they were opened to discuss the disputed bill. “The communication was followed by a formal letter more than a month later stating that they will set up a meeting with me to resolve the issue,” Mofoka said.
“I aver that I never received the invite to the meeting nor another communication from WASCO despite repeated visits to its offices to try and establish same; only to be surprised when WASCO personnel arrived at my property on Friday, 19 August 2021, forced entry onto my property, terrorised my tenants and uprooted the water meter, thereby cutting off water supply to my property,” he added.
He said he rushed to WASCO’s offices at Moshoeshoe Road, Industrial Area, in Maseru seeking audience with responsible officers, “only to be met with an arrogant attitude from WASCO’s employees”, whom he accused of relying “very much” on the might of their company.
“They were not prepared to discuss anything but immediate payment of the M7 800 plus penalties and interest thereon. According to Respondent’s employees, their word was final on the bill, regardless of whether the bill made business sense. All because the Respondent ‘is a big company’ which cannot lie,” he said. Mofoka also told the magistrate court that he was informed that he was not the only victim of WASCO’s “illegality on that specific date”. He said WASCO was “on a spree to illegally disconnect water meters around the Lithabaneng area as they usually do to Basotho citizens”.