WINDHOEK – Windhoek residents owe the municipality a staggering N$278 million in unpaid municipal bills for the last four months. Residential water and electricity debts alone stand at N$138 million, while debts for services such as ambulances and the fire brigade stand at N$83 million.
City of Windhoek corporate communications manager, Joshua Amukugo, says the municipality is ready to take action to compel residents to cough up the owed monies and to arrest the escalation of debts. The actions would include “normal disconnection of services, blocking of pre-paid metres and legal action”, says Amukugo.
However, the City of Windhoek is not alone – the Okahandja Town Council, 65 kilometres north of Windhoek, is owed over N$1 million for municipal services rendered to residents. That town council has also taken drastic measures such as disconnecting water and electricity services in a bid to recover monies owed to it by its 24 100 residents.
“The council is really concerned, these are our people, but there is no way. We have a duty as council to collect rates and taxes as per consumption,” Frans Enkali, the chief executive officer of the Okahandja Town Council, told New Era.
Enkali says the drastic measures being taken are not discriminatory and all residents are being treated equally. “Even a certain [Okahandja town] councillor was affected and the water was cut off. [The councillor] paid the bill,” he said.
In Windhoek, government institutions and businesses are also among those with outstanding debts. Government alone owes N$11 million, while corporate clients sit with a collective debt of N$9 million.
Most of the residents affected by the debts are those faced with unemployment, disability or those under severe financial constraints for a variety of reasons, the City of Windhoek says. “As a service provider we are constantly requested to be lenient towards the poor and the vulnerable, which also results in the escalation of debt,” said Amukugo.
Debts accumulated at shared communal water points in informal settlements are the most difficult to control, and cutting off the services could lead to very unhygienic conditions.
Amukugo however cautions that even though the municipality does have a heart to be lenient to the poor, the poor should not abuse the city council’s mercy and stop paying for water, because the municipality needs the money to increase water points within the city, and to upgrade its services.
“If it becomes worse, the municipality can cut off everything, and the situation we have been trying to avoid can happen,” warned Amukugo.
About 72 percent of Windhoek’s total debts are 120 days old, while the 30-day-old debts make up 15 percent of the total debt.
The portion of 60-day-old debts and 90-day-old debts is 7 percent and 6 percent respectively.
Windhoek motorists owe the City of Windhoek N$10.5 million in outstanding traffic fines that go as far back as 2009. The City Police issued 35 218 warrants of arrest against thousands of drivers in Windhoek going back as far as 2009.