KATIMA MULILO - A dispute between the Katima Mulilo town councillors and residents over debt collector RedForce’s operations has now led the angry inhabitants to seek legal assistance to get the entity removed.
Chaos broke out on Wednesday afternoon in the town between hordes of frustrated residents and the town council officials, including the mayor, following continuous demands to remove RedForce from the town.
The hullabaloo came after town mayor Lister Shamalaza informed the angry crowd that they would meet on Sunday to provide answers to the affected residents, and map the way forward regarding RedForce.
This, however, did not go down well with the inhabitants as they stormed towards the present councillors, trying to block them from leaving the Ngweze community hall where the meeting was being held under a heavy police presence. The three councillors present had to be quickly ferried away by law-enforcement officials through the back door of the hall and put in a police traffic car, which the angry crowd also tried to block from leaving the premises.
However, the police officers managed to contain the situation, and the councillors were driven away without any harm or damage to property.
One of the affected residents, Patrick Matengu, said they decided to donate money to source a lawyer to represent them.
“We must have a lawyer. There is no way we can continue this matter without a lawyer. In Namibia, we are free. We have a judiciary, where we can go and ventilate our matter. We are not here for fights,” he vowed.
Matengu went on to say “Councillors were here, and told us they are not equal as they were only three instead of all the seven councillors. They just walked away. That’s not leadership. There is no office for them now.”
He stressed that people are frustrated because they don’t have water at their houses for months now.
“Some only owe N$120, some owe N$80, but they don’t have water for six months. Our elderly are suffering, as they don’t have water,” he reiterated.
Another affected resident who lives at New Cowboy is John Kandere, who said his water has been disconnected for two years now.
“I apparently owe N$20 000. But the bill doesn’t go down although I am making monthly payments. I don’t have a carwash or any other business at my house for the bill to be so high. How did I incur such a huge bill?” he queried.
Now, he pays N$500 per month to neighbours so that he can tap water for daily use from them, while also trying to settle his huge municipal water bill.
Libebe Mundia expressed disappointment with RedForce, saying they are closing water for the elderly and school-children in the town.
He said this issue started during Covid-19 when government announced that everyone should have water. The water bills got high, and residents couldn’t pay it off. “No one was informed about RedForce. They just started closing water, and they were putting 15% interest on the bills. We want RedForce to get away. We also want town council management to sit with residents to solve this water issue. Zambezi is sitting on water...how can we have credit for water bills? Mundia asked.
Another aggrieved member, Gift Lishokomosi, said the residents want feedback on this debt collector.
He accused the town councillors of trying to cover up something regarding RedForce’s operation. “We handed over the petition to council last month, but they didn’t give us the right response. They are violating our rights, instead of standing for us. We want RedForce to go. We want the entire council to go because they are not here to represent our interests. They bring the police on us to come and violate our rights. We want real answers. Councillors are promoting corruption in Zambezi,” he charged.
Katima Mulilo police station commander, chief inspector Charles Mayumbelo, was also at the chaotic scene.
He said the gathering was supposed to be a peaceful meeting. “However, it turned violent at the end. We came for safety and security. We came to make sure our community members and town council members were protected. I can’t really say what happened if community members were not happy about the answer they were given, or what angered them. It was a short meeting, and there was no loudspeaker to hear what was discussed as I was a bit far. So, I am not sure what really happened,” Mayumbelo added.