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Residents want RedForce gone in 14 days

2021-09-24  John Muyamba

Residents want RedForce gone in 14 days

RUNDU – While some Rundu residents vehemently protested against the town council contracting a debt collector, the CEO of the Kavango East capital said they should look in the mirror to find the culprit.

Residents on Wednesday trooped to the Kavango East governor’s office to hand in a petition where they said they don’t want to deal with a debt collector entrusted by Rundu Town Council (RTC) to collect dues on their behalf.

Rundu’s efforts to encourage residents to pay their debts failed over the years, forcing the council to rope in an outsider.

“RedForce came in by invitation of residents through non-payment. If they had honoured their dues, RedForce won’t be here,” said Rundu CEO Olavi Nathanael. 

“Below their monthly statements, we always encourage our clients to pay their dues but only a few showed up.”

 Last year, the town council entered into an agreement with RedForce Debt Management to collect money owed by government institutions, businesses and residents at the town in unpaid water bills, rates and taxes estimated to be over N$300 million. 

From January to date, RedForce had recovered about N$30 million from defaulters. 

“Just before elections, urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni ordered the town council to terminate operations of RedForce Debt Management. After the 2020 local authority elections, through the settlement at court, RedForce began with its operations and continued to this date. The question is, did the minister terminate RedForce last year for the sake of elections or he did it according to the Local Authorities Act? Honourable Uutoni, we need an immediate answer,” read the petition handed to governor Bonifatius Wakudumo, which was read by local resident Alfred Kapinga. 

“We are not saying that water should not be paid for as that would be wrong, but we are saying making people honour their dues can still be done without dehumanising anybody through a third party such as RedForce.”

The residents demanded that RedForce operations be terminated immediately.

“It is a fact that the agreement was done through breaching laws. RedForce was contracted without any signed resolution, neither by the minister’s approval. RTC failed to engage residents before considering contracting a third party which is harassing residents and making their lives miserable,’’ noted the petitioners.

The local authority has been on its knees urging defaulters to step up payment but according to the council, few have been honouring their accounts.

The defaulters include businesses and politicians. 

This in the end crippled the town council, which is now unable to deliver services effectively due to the poor financial state council finds itself.

In 2019, in an attempt to recover some money from residents, the council urged ratepayers to participate in an incentive programme, which ran for nine months whereby interest from their debts would be waived, but according to council, only a few participated. 

This led to council appointing a debt collector in 2020. The incentive programme, which was applicable to all types of municipal services or accounts, ran from November 2019 to June 2020.

When the debt collector started in January this year, all accounts that have defaulted on payments for three months and beyond were handed over for collection to RedForce with all payments paid directly to Rundu Town Council, while defaulters are liable for collection fees, calculated at 12%. 

“The elderly, who are in most cases breadwinners, cannot afford to pay off their debts especially after RedForce added 12% on top of the owed amounts. Not every debt by residents is a true reflection of what the actual debt is because council employees take wrong readings which led to exaggerated figures,’’ the petition read.

“Because of that reason, we demand the installation of prepaid water meters, but these prepaid meters must not make the provision of water expensive.”

The petitioners gave a 14-day period for council and the minister to terminate their contract with the debt collector. 

They further demanded that council, together with RedForce, reconnect those who have been disconnected due to debts. 

“Failure to do so, the parties mentioned will not like what will to do thereafter. We urge you to take this as advice and not as a threat,’’ Kapinga noted.

Governor Wakudumo when receiving the petition noted that he was aware of the problems of Rundu. 

“We know the issue of Rundu. It comes a very long way. Year in year out, we don’t get solutions to this problem. You have entrusted me as a governor to look into this matter and we are going to do so. I believe we will get a possible solution but that solution will require that you residents of this town have to be part of it,’’ he said.

“It is not only one person to run the show and then decide that this is the solution but my office will engage you, the community, Rundu Town Council and the regional council. My desire and wish is to find the underlying cause of these problems. We need to understand the dynamics of this problem and together I believe we are going to get solutions moving forward.”




2021-09-24  John Muyamba

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