Supporting a motion in the National Assembly this week, Popular Democratic Mo v e m e n t ( P DM ) parliamentarian Elma Dienda called on government to ensure every Namibian is guaranteed access to water while allowing residents to start afresh with current and new water payments. “Writing off water debts of local authorities for those who cannot afford it, like pensioners who are only surviving on the government pension of N$1300 per month, the unemployed ones and people living with disabilities, would be a great move,” she said.
Dienda made it clear that government debt should not be written off, particularly for State institutions that have been in arrears for years. “We are all aware that the main culprit of non–payment of municipal bills is the government.” She stated frequent increases in water and electricity consumption prices are some of the leading factors why people cannot afford to pay their debts. This situation is exacerbated by an absence of salary increases, lower pension payouts and the unsustainable high unemployment rate in the country.
Dienda further stated that water affordability remains a thorn in the flesh for communities, while unemployment in Namibia continues to fuel increasing poverty levels.
“This makes it impossible and impractical for people in our communities to pay for the high-water debts. The poorest of the poor in our communities have exorbitantly accumulated
water debts that are practically impossible to pay back,” the PDM parliamentarian added. She gave examples from other countries, noting that writing off water debts have been practised by various governments across Africa where residents are unable to pay back high-water bills.
South Africa’s biggest municipalities such as the City of Johannesburg and the City of Cape Town last year, she said wrote off debts worth R2 billion. Landless People’s Movement (LPM) parliamentarian, Henny Seibeb, initially brought the motion to the House calling for the write-off of water debt to local authorities and regional councils.
ln Namibia, the current situation is that total NamWater debt is at a whopping N$1.4 billion of which N$600 million is attributed to local authorities. Seibeb noted the Keetmanshoop municipality owes NamWater over N$23 million, while the City of Windhoek’s current debt is N$37.4 million, which when added to the 30 day account brings the capital city’s total bill to over N$56 million.