News and Information

Katima gets water back, but no bailout of towns
August 6, 2004

AFTER nearly a year of water woes, the taps will be running again at Katima Mulilo as soon as this weekend.

Government intervention has also ensured that water and electricity will be restored at Okakarara, which was thrust into darkness a month ago over its unpaid debts.

"We have an obligation and duty to make Namibia a better place to live in and a better tomorrow for those women and children who have all dedicated their trust in us as leaders who have the ability to ensure the prosperity of our people at all levels of life," Minister of Local and Regional Government and Housing Joel Kaapanda said yesterday.

With Government having had to step in to negotiate with NamWater and NamPower over the restoration of services at the town, Kaapanda also issued a stern warning to the country's local authorities saying that if they followed the same course, councils could ultimately face dissolutions or towns would lose their status.

"My Ministry will not negotiate or compromise nor tolerate this situation of mismanagement," Kaapanda told the media in Windhoek.

However, no solution has yet been reached for paying off the millions Katima Mulilo owes NamWater.

For now, its debt of N$21,5 million will be set aside until a settlement agreement has been secured.

Okakarara owes in excess of N$2 million to NamWater and NamPower.

"This, however, does not absolve the debtors from paying their debts and they must keep on paying for services that they will be receiving," said Kaapanda.

The Minister said that under no circumstances would Government pay the towns' debts nor could the companies be expected to write them off.

"We must pay for services we receive and no one else - be it a local authority council or the home owner in general, is exempted from doing so," Kaapanda warned.

A combined team from the Ministry and the two bulk utilities NamPower and NamWater will travel to both towns next week to investigate the situation on the ground.

Besides non-payment of services by the towns' residents, infrastructural problems are also suspected of being the cause of water losses.

The Ministry will also dispatch its officials to both towns to manage their water and electricity accounts and facilitate revenue collection for at least a month.

The Minister said the local authorities could have avoided the situations they found themselves in if the councils were properly managed.

"We all have a standard to maintain and it is certainly unthinkable that local authority councils should be exempted from that.

The Ministry does not see any justification to bail out a local authority and will certainly not do so," he said.

Residents have been given a week to approach the town councils to make arrangements to settle their outstanding accounts.

The two bulk suppliers are owed about N$60 million in outstanding debts from Government ministries, local authorities and regional councils across the country.


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