About 10000 villagers in Mpumalanga have been billed thousands of rands for water services though they don't have running water in their houses.
Residents of Marapyane and neighboring villages are spitting fire after they received invoices from the JS Moroka municipality for water.
They argue that they have to collect water from boreholes which they have dug in their villages, and this has nothing to do with the municipality.
But the municipality says underground water does not belong to an individual but to the minerals and energy department.
Tebogo Molai, a resident, told Sowetan: "I was shocked when I received a bill showing that I owed the municipality R7000 for water usage.
"I challenged the municipality about this and they said it was the law."
He said several meetings were held between residents and municipal officials to address the problem, but to no avail.
Another villager, Biki Matseke, said he had been billed R5000.
"Even if the municipality provided us with running water, there is no way I could have used that much water."
Jan Ndala said: "I don't even have a borehole in my yard but I have been billed. I am shocked."
He said he travels on his donkey-pulled cart every morning to look for water.
The mayor, Mapula Masombuka, said residents were informed about water charges and she was surprised that they were complaining.
"Water from the boreholes is not safe until it is tested and we want the villagers to register their boreholes so we can test and service them frequently," she said.
Masombuka said that despite the residents' resistance to have running water in their area, her municipality had set aside R3,5million this financial year to provide this.
She added that the invoices were based on a flat rate.