By Michael Liswaniso
The Chief Executive Officer of the Opuwo Town Council, Alphons Tjitombo, says residents of the north-western regional capital owe the embattled town council close to N$2 million.
The sum includes unpaid bills for water and municipal services of which unpaid water bills constitute the bulk.
He said this in an interview with New Era this week.
However, he could not reveal how many residents are indebted to the council but said a substantial number have had their water suspended since last year.
“Most people are not willing to settle their debts claiming that the water is not good but I must say that time is running out for them (defaulters), because soon before the end of this year, we might have good water. I urge them all to make their contributions and be reconnected, otherwise they will miss good opportunities,” urged Tjitombo.
Opuwo’s water is deemed unfit for human consumption due to its high levels of calcium, magnesium and sulphate which can cause diarrhoea especially for first time consumers. The water also highly affects equipment such as irons, electric-kettles, water pipelines and geysers by heavily causing corrosion.
Tjitombo said he was working hard to ensure that before the end of this year, residents would drink clean water and do away with current water estimates and install pre-paid metre.
“Some people are taking advantage of the whole situation because those who had their water disconnected are fetching water from their neighbours and this needs to change because whether one consumes more or less water per month the payment is just the same, hence the need for pre-paid water metres,” said the CEO.
Meanwhile, Opuwo’s community newsletter, ‘Good News’ reports that residents of Opuwo will receive wonderful ‘Chrisman gifts’ this year as a result of the announcements of a purification plant and drink class A water type instead of the current class D, by NamWater earlier this year.
“Geysers, kettles and other equipment have been suffering from the high lime content. Many people cannot drink the water due to its high magnesium content class D ratings. Town council will then also be able to extend Opuwo’s water reticulation network and provide clean water for all residents.
And water will be provided 24 hours a day,” reports the community newsletter.
At present, Opuwo water is only accessible between the hours of 06h00 and 22h00.
In other developments, Tjitombo said in order to curb the current unpleasant sewage smell and pools of water resulting from outdated sewage pumps, his council has already procured new sewage pumps this year, but due to the fact that pumps matching the current ones could not be found anywhere in South Africa they had to be purchased in Europe at a cost of N$900 000 for three.
They are expected soon.
“We bought them already; maybe as we are having this interview they are already on their way to Opuwo.”
He added that in order to boost tourism, council is busy building a craft centre for all arts and craft vendors in town. Opuwo’s airstrip is also being fenced at present via the assistance of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication through the directorate of civil aviation.
Tjitombo also cited developmental efforts such as improving the road infrastructure which has seen phase one being successfully completed with a handful of prominent gravel roads improved.
The whole initiative, according to the CEO, will take approximately N$1 million from council coffers.
“Even though we are improving the gravel roads, we are also going to put up drainage systems during the second phase of this project within this financial year to avoid flooding during rainy seasons and especially for houses along the roads.”
Refuse removal that has been a “headache” for the town council, according to Tjitombo, is also receiving attention. The council has appointed a property developer to assist with the servicing and construction of 100 houses in town to curb the current housing problem in the regional capital.
Opuwo is now home to more than 10 000 people.
Some government employees are housed in informal settlements, while others share by residing together in either a single government flat or a house.