By Lynette Kozosi
The Tutungeni Community at Rosh Pinah is not happy with a resolution passed by the local authority obliging them to start paying for water and sanitation services, after these services were previously given to them for free.
The previous informal settlement where people erected houses was situated in the Rosh Pinah mining area and dangerously close to mining dumps.
But in February 2006, when management recognised the appalling conditions, they decided to relocate the housing area to what is known as Tutungeni.
Tutungeni settlement, unlike the previous settlement, was well planned and demarcated into plots, streets, shared toilets and water points at a cost of N$2 million provided by two mines based at the town.
A private company, RoshSkor, took over the responsibility of providing services to Tutungeni settlement by installing basic services such as sanitation, the collection of refuse and the provision of water infrastructure.
Tutungeni residents are now being charged N$6.35 per 1000 litres of water and a monthly fee of N$50 00 for other basic services, which the residents have failed to pay.
The recovery of service fee costs continued to be a problem due to non-payment by residents. However, to overcome this RoshSkor introduced 24 pre-paid water points into the project and spaced them throughout the housing area at a cost of N$291 000 with the intention of recovering both water costs as well as service fees.
The pre-paid water points were completed in November 2007.
But during the holidays of December last year, certain members of the community destroyed 23 of the 24 pre-paid water standpipes.
Management decided that the repairs would be done only if and when the community takes full ownership of the pre-paid water meter project.
RoshSkor then repaired four pre-paid water meter standpipes but in a secured area managed by RoshSkor.
According to Andries Aspara, the Town Manager of Rosh Pinah, the residents vandalised the pre-paid water points on purpose because they were not in agreement with this arrangement.
“They were not satisfied with the pre-paid meters, they wanted free water,” he said.
This discontentment amongst the residents resulted in a peaceful demonstration, which took place on January 18, despite efforts by RoshSkor to hold meetings with the residents to explain the water tariffs and services to the community.
A meeting was convened between the two delegations, with the community represented by the Councillor of the Oranjemund Constituency, Toivo Nambala.
The delegation that was represented by Councillor Nambala identified lack of understanding of the RoshSkor billing system by the community as the central cause of the problem, although lots of work was carried out to educate the community in this regard.
Discussions centred on possible solutions and agreed immediate action plans were put into practice.
According to Nambala, the delegation agreed not to pay monthly fees of N$50-00 for basic services, but the water will still be available for the usual price of N$6.35 per 1000 litres, as well as pre-paid units for possible installation at other points on condition that residents commit themselves to stop vandalising units and a representative committee of Tutungeni residents needs to be nominated to form a working committee with RoshSkor to seek alternative ideas on how the service costs will be paid.
The outcome of the working committee needs to be completed by March 31 of this year.
Councillor Nambala committed himself to play a leading role in facilitating a solution.
“The community does not have the problem with paying now. They said the fees were too high and that is why they did not pay. They want the service charges to be separated from the water charges,” he said.
It will cost RoshSkor about N$291 000 to repair the damaged pre-paid meter standpipes.