I have just returned from a miserable experience at the Joburg Municipal offices in Sandton. I had planned to lodge queries on excessive utility charges on two of my properties. My spirits lifted when I found that the queue wasn’t very long and everyone in the queue had a chair. We played muscial chirs for a while, shifting slowly closer to the agents at the desk. A half-hour later, it was my turn. A large bespectacled man by name Patrick was to assist me!

It was my misfortune to have landed in front of this man – an argumentative person with the temparament of a bulldog, intent on highly detailed explanations – most of which had nothing to do with my query. I would suggest one resolution, he would counter it with another. He was perturbed that I didn’t bring my own water readings! He told me to return tomorrow with my ‘readings’.

We looked at what appeared to be an endless parade of water meter readings on his computer screen while he proceeded to illustrate his argument.

Finally, being vaguely aware of people on my left and right getting up and leaving, having finished their business during this discourse, I was suddenly contemplating the prospect of leaving their office two hours later, in no better a situation than I had arrived, my queries unanswered and disputes unlodged. I asked if he could perhaps pass me on to someone else who could assist me. He took offence, and stood up haughtily, exclaimed that he was going home and walked away from his desk.

I was left there, holding a bunch of print-outs, looking very sheepish. I moved tentatively towards the agent sitting next, but apparently they maintain a pack-dog mentality, so no-one was willing to assist. I tried them all. A youngish staff person appeared offended by my ‘unreasonable’ expectation of good service and  piped up  that he didn’t care. Thereafter he also got up and proceeded to leave the office. Apparently it closes at 15h30 and I was now holding them up.

Eventually I went downstairs and poured my heart out to a kindly gentleman I encountered in the basement garage. He has asked me to come see him tomorrow morning. We will see if this time we will sort out the queries.

And then to cap it all, I encountered the offended youngish man driving out of the garage. He stopped his car, rolled down his window, asked me ‘So, you want your rights?’ and then drove off.

Here is hoping for the best…;


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