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Okahandja municipality cuts water to defaulters

2023-04-18  Albertina Nakale

Okahandja municipality cuts water to defaulters

Many residents in Okahandja are without water for close to eight weeks as they owe the municipality millions of dollars in unpaid municipal rates and taxes for years.

On 27 September 2022, the municipality issued a public notice informing residents about the appointment of a debt collection agent for a period of five years starting on 17 October 2022.

The notice notified residents that RedForce shall carry out debt collection efforts in Okahandja and surrounding areas with the aim of recovering all outstanding monies owed to the municipality in respect of arrear accounts by both residential and business clients.

At the time, council also informed the public and residents at large that services for all handed over accounts shall be suspended during the period that the account is with RedForce, until the account is settled and or a payment arrangement is done.

Okahandja CEO Alphons Tjitombo confirmed that the high increase in non-payment of accounts saw the municipality owed in excess of close to N$200 million in respect of water consumption, rates, taxes, refuse, and land sales.

A case in point is the residents of Lemero Court, in the Veddersdal suburb, where water supply of about 42 units have been disconnected due to unpaid rates and taxes. Collectively, the 42 units owe the municipality over N$1.2 million as indicated on the monthly invoice between 1 February 2023 and 1 March 2023.

Out of the 42 homeowners, only eight residents are paid-up customers while some defaulters owe more than N$149 489.28 for the month of February alone.

Sadly, since the court is registered as one erf at the municipality, the water meters at the whole complex have been disconnected some eight weeks.

On 29 March 2023, Redforce Debt Management wrote a letter of demand to Lemero Court Auas Business Enterprises requesting payment on the outstanding account which runs over a million dollars in arrears.

The account was handed over with a required total collection fee of N$45 371.39 before reconnecting water services. This exercise has left many residents of Okahandja fuming about why their water services have been suspended abruptly.

Many residents who have now resorted to using wheelbarrows to fetch water in containers around the neighbourhood feel it’s not fair that they are paid-up customers but their water has been cut. 

“As much as the CEO and management have hired Redforce debt collectors... it doesn’t help because some house owners who owe the most do not reside at the residence and they are not suffering and enduring this. Why should we pay for someone else’s sin? Whatever agreement it [management] has with Redforce, it can be re-opened for negotiation. Even if Redforce deals with individual owners, it’s fine,” one paid-up customer who now uses a wheelbarrow to fetch water argued.

Another affected resident charged, “People are buying water from neighbours, friends and family from as far as Osona village, Windhoek and Karibib. Desperation does not begin to explain the situation at hand. This is not fair.” 

Residents demand the re-opening of the main pipe to allow all units to have access to water since there are individual prepaid water meters.

They also want tenants to be treated as individual units and not as a group where individuals sign agreements with the municipality regarding the outstanding corporate levies.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Okahandja strategic executive for finance, Pesella Nunda explained all residents, businesses, government offices, ministries and agencies in Okahandja with outstanding municipal bills have been given notifications prior to Redforce suspending accounts.

“The police station was also cut a few weeks ago. However, the same day, management came down from Windhoek and showed us proof of payment, and the water was reconnected the same day. They owed above a million but payment was traced as it was not allocated. We are not only cutting households but also government agencies and offices who owe,” Nunda explained.

Further, he said as much as the municipality sympathises with residents, they see no valid reason that would warrant any writing off of debt, as
amounts have not been proven to be erroneously charged. “We will be able to separately valuate the units to enable the charging of rates and taxes separately, provided that you provide the municipality with a survey diagram indicating the participation of each individual unit and also indicate to us how you resolve to clear the rates and taxes bill,” Nunda advised residents. 

One of the three body corporates that administered Lemero Court is of the opinion the Okahandja municipality is not complying with the Sectional Titles Act, Section 54, subsections three to seven, which deals with the valuation of land and buildings and recovery of rates by local authorities.

“The advantage of complying with the Act is that individual owners are responsible for their own bills and the municipality can only then take action against owners who are in arrears instead of them punishing everyone, as is the case currently with Lemero. The Act was put into operation in 2014 but the municipality is yet to comply,” reacted the owner of the body corporate who opts to remain anonymous. 

Since December 2022, the residents of Lemero Court are on their own without a body corporate to administer the affairs of the complex.


2023-04-18  Albertina Nakale

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