Business tenants want private electricity meters at !Homs -Ai

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Disgruntled businesspeople operating from !Homs-Ai Business Park at Keetmanshoop are demanding that private electricity meters be installed for each business.

The business owners have lashed out at the current bulk electricity meter system, saying it is an unfair arrangement, because all businesses do not consume electricity equally. The tenants at the park currently make monthly payments to the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) as rental fees, inclusive of water and electricity.

NDC as the custodian of the property is responsible for electricity payments to Southern Electricity Company Ltd (SELCo), but the tenants are unhappy with this system, especially after SELCo shut down electricity supply to the business park a few weeks ago, due to apparent non-payment by NDC.

The traders claim this had a negative impact on their businesses, as they incurred losses for the five days the electricity was off and claim this would have never happened if each business had its own electricity account.

“There is a collective electricity account. Now take someone who is plaiting [hair] and someone who has a bakery, who is consuming more electricity?” asked Menesia Keister.

A disappointed Keister, who is Kharas FM radio station manager narrated to New Era that the power cut dealt a huge blow to the already struggling radio station, as they lost the little income they usually make through advertising and as a result clients might shy away from advertising with the radio station in future.

“The businesses are losing interest and these are our most valuable customers,” she explained. “Why can’t we have private meters?”

Another tenant, who runs a nearby boutique, wanted to know why NDC and SELCo have not activated the private meters installed at some units. “All small places have meters, but I don’t understand why they are not activating them,” she said.

Contacted for comment NDC senior manager for corporate services Wessel !Nanuseb indicated that NDC pays the municipal bill for the entire complex and said SELCo has embarked on a process of ‘one meter for one erf’. For that reason they can only charge the landlord, which is NDC and not individual tenants.

“Those mentioned individual prepaid meters are already installed, but because of the system and process implemented by SELCo it is impossible to activate them,” he explained.

He further said it is very difficult for the landlord to charge the tenants according to their consumption of electricity, because the prepaid meters are not functional and no reading can be taken or compared against consumption, adding that the mandate of SELCo is such that it is impractical to charge individual users.

!Nanuseb also dismissed reports that NDC owed N$700 000 to SELCo, which subsequently led to the power cut, saying the amount owed was in excess  of  N$400 00 for NDC-owned properties in the entire //Karas  Region. He further said the late payment was caused by delays in reconciling various accounts internally before payment could be effected.

SELCo’s managing director, Abraham Kukuri, however indicated otherwise when contacted for comment, saying it is in fact NDC’s mandate to approach SELCo with regards to the meters, but this has not been done. He explained that the electricity supplier can only activate or install private meters upon request by the client.