The Windhoek Municipality is looking at formulating a policy on how to manage the municipal debts of senior citizens. This follows calls of municipalities to write off debts for pensioners, many of whom owe town councils across the country thousands of dollars for municipal services and property rates and taxes.
The Windhoek Municipality however says there would be “no more disconnection of services to vulnerable people, and the disconnected services of vulnerable residents would be restored”.
The municipality would start with the registration of vulnerable residents at constituency offices from tomorrow, roll out provisions for prepaid electricity to vulnerable people and facilitate the registration for communal prepaid water tags in Otjomuise Extension 6 to 7, while registration of residents in other informal settlements would be extended to the end of this month.
The municipal manager of corporate communication and customer care Joshua Amukugo said that there is a need to formulate a policy on pensioners’ debts because the scrapping of debts cannot be blindly introduced.
This is because there are some pensioners who own businesses while others are well off, and it would be unfair to have their debts written off together with the debts of those really unable to pay their bills.
“Will you be happy to have an elderly business person’s debts written off?” Amukugo asked.
Amukugo said that in some households the pensioners live on a farm and their employed children who are in the house in the city do not pay the municipality for its services, expecting that the debts be written off because the house belongs to the pensioner.
“We are not saying we will not write off the debts but we are deliberating on the way to help the destitute,” he said.
Amukugo’s comments follows senior citizens’ peaceful demonstration and the delivery of a petition to the municipality requesting that the debts for old municipal houses be written off, specifically of pensioners. The demonstration was held on Thursday last week
Amukugo said there are about 2 500 pensioners in Windhoek but the number keeps growing.
The senior citizens from Katutura asked the municipality to reduce the water tariff.
“Evictions should stop and there should be another method of paying. Stop police interference and intimidation during civil matters, especially during eviction processes,” the elders wrote to the municipality, stating that once evicted they are exposed to all kinds of dangers.
The group of elders also requested the municipality to inform the messengers of the High Court to change their “apartheid mentalities and attitudes and to read Article 23 of the Namibia constitution”.
Windhoek Mayor Muesee Kazapua who received the petition told elders that the municipality is in discussion with the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare on the issue, as the debts of pensioners are not a matter for the municipality alone but for the government as well. “Although debts are scrapped they accumulate again. We want a permanent solution whereby elders are exempt from rates and taxes,” said Kazapua.
Kazapua said it is unacceptable that some elders have children who are employed but do not assist senior citizens, and because it is the elders’ house they (the elders) face having to pay the debts.
Kazapua told the pensioners not to wait until the water is cut off but invited them to visit the municipal offices so that their plight can be looked into. “Do not sit at home and get a heart attack or stroke, come to our office so that we look into your matter. We will direct officials from debt management so that they investigate and find who are you staying with, and how many people from the household are unemployed,” he said.