The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) last week recalled Sydney Skakana from the local authority of Keetmanshoop over an allegation that he defied party directives not to support a decision to disconnect the water supply of residents, New Era has learned.
The Keetmanshoop municipality in September last year, upon instruction from the town’s council, started to disconnect the water supply of residents who are in arrears.
This led to angry residents taking to the streets to express their frustration over the disconnection of the water supply by the local authority. The residents staged a peaceful demonstration, where they also called for the recall of Skakana.
At the time, chairperson of the Keetmanshoop Concerned Group Percy Charlies said in a petition that it was disheartening that residents who voted councillors into power are now deprived of their fundamental, basic right to safe water.
Local authorities have increasingly struggled with juggling the paying of utility bills and providing lifesaving water to residents, many struggling economically even before the coronavirus pandemic decimated economic activity.
The City of Windhoek announced that they would stop the provision of free water in informal settlements from next month because of the financial burden the service put on the council.
The provision of free water in informal settlements was a directive from Government in an effort to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The City said since the introduction of free water provision in informal settlements at the beginning of 2020, when Covid-19 hit Namibia, Government paid about N$12 million for the first three months of lockdown. Afterwards, no payment was received.
The deficit now stands at N$90 million, and is expected to increase at the end of January 2022.
The monthly bill is around N$6 million.
Agriculture, water and land reform minister Calle Schlettwein said in Parliament in November last year that both local authorities and regional councils owe NamWater about N$500 million.
The huge outstanding bill is largely due to a 2020 directive given by government, which instructed local authorities and regional councils to ensure that all residents who were in arrears, and those who had no access to potable water, be provided with access to water as part of the fight against Covid-19.
According to information at hand, the LPM last year gave a directive to its councillors in that local authority not to disconnect residents’ water, but rather that of businesses.
Keetmanshoop is part of 14 other local authorities that have shifted to a prepaid bulk water supply system due to skyrocketing water bills. They owe NamWater about N$23 million, and have been urging residents to make their monthly payments since June so as to also repay the required N$2 million per month.
In a letter addressed to Skakana on Thursday last week, LPM operative secretary Edson Isaaks said the party’s political action committee resolved in terms of section 13, subsection 3 and 4 of the Local Authorities Act of 1992, to withdraw him from representing the party in the Keetmanshoop town council.
The letter seen by Nampa reads: “Your endorsement is herewith revoked and as of this day, you cease to be councillor representing the LPM and shall have no authority, jurisdiction or power of any sort to act on behalf of the party in council affairs.”
Approached for comment, Skakana acknowledged having received the letter. “I got the same copy that you have. The letter is self-explanatory, so no need for me to expect other communication other than what was presented to me. I respect the decision of the party, and will ask no further questions”, he added.
Skakana becomes the second councillor to be recalled by the party in less than a month after the then-mayor of Keetmanshoop, Maree Smithl was also withdrawn from the council.
Smith was re-elected mayor at the end of November.
Additional reporting - Nampa