News and Information

Katima residents feel pinch as Council tightens tap on debts
August 17, 2004

BARELY a week since full water supply was restored to Katima Mulilo, residents are up in arms over the drastic measures being taken by the municipality to recover debts.

The Katima Mulilo Town Council is pulling out all the stops to recover millions it is owed by residents by cutting supply to those who fail to settle their arrears.

The move comes hot on the heels of a Government-brokered deal almost two weeks ago, that the council be allowed to start on a clean slate and make arrangements to settle its debts to the water utility.

The town's residents gradually saw the water supply to the town reduced from 50 per cent last August to only 30 per cent until just more than a week ago.

But the return of water supply to the town has been met with mixed feelings and even anger from some residents, whose water supply to their homes was cut just as their taps started to flow again.

Last week, many residents called the NBC's Lozi Radio Service Chatline to complain that they are unable to meet the council's payment arrangements.

"Summer is coming.

People need water," said one resident The Namibian spoke to "but people don't have that kind of money to pay." Individuals are said to owe the council up to N$25 000 in arrears.

Municipal spokesperson Chrispin Muyoba said last week that the council had adopted a "zero tolerance" approach and that residents either had to pay up or go without water.

He said defaulters were expected to pay at least half their arrears up front, and could sign a bank debit order to pay the rest over a period of time.

Businesses, he said, would be expected to settle their entire arrears amount.

Muyoba said the council had been lenient for too long and that it had to take action to bring its performance in line with councils elsewhere around the country.

"Anyone who owes the council must pay," he said.

"If they don't pay, we are turning off [the water]," said Muyoba.

Officials began cutting supply to homes in the most affluent area of Boma first, but Muyoba said officials were fast moving through other areas too.

Malfunctioning pre-payment water meters which, in many instances, was the cause of free-flowing water for months on end, were also being removed.

"The same people who were unhappy when there was no water, are the ones who are unhappy now," he alleged.

He could not say how many customers had had their supply cut, saying officials were moving "very fast" through the town.

According to Muyoba, there had been a notable influx of residents to the municipal offices to make payment arrangements during last week.

Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing officials also began work at the council a week ago in an effort to improve their revenue collection and overall administration.

The council owes NamWater N$21,5 million in unpaid water debts and has not made an payment towards their account in more than a year.

Source: The namibian news paper

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