KEETMANSHOOP – The municipality of Keetmanshoop is racing against time to collect an amount of N$3.5 million to meet a demand from NamWater for partial payment of an outstanding debt of N$14 million owed to the water utility.
NamWater has threatened to disconnect the water supply to the town if the demanded payment is not made. Mayor Maree Smit, during a recent community meeting, pleaded with residents to settle their outstanding water bills to assist the municipality to pay NamWater for services rendered.
“It is both the responsibility of the municipality and you, as consumers of water supplied, to join hands and tackle this challenge,’’ she added.
The mayor continued that the final date for payment was supposed to be 19 March 2021 but that they are fortunate to have water supply to the town up to now.
Smit explained to those present that the municipality is not getting water for free from NamWater and are furthermore reselling water to ratepayers, charging only a small amount on top of NamWater’s price for the cost of maintaining the water infrastructure in the town.
She also said that after council approached the relevant line ministry (urban and rural development), they were informed that it is impossible in light of the current economic climate of the country to bail them out or let the debt be written off.
She continued that council is hoping to get a positive response from residents in terms of paying off their current and outstanding debts, as they are now fully aware of the consequences if not complying accordingly for the whole town.
“We also had meetings with corporates, ministries, officials and agencies in town to come up with suggestions and actions on how we, as council, together with them, can address this life-threatening crisis,’’ she said.
Smit also warned residents that although the municipality has been humane and patient thus far, it will be left with no other option but to disconnect the water supply of those residents who did not make any payment on their accounts by the end of March 2021.
In his contribution, management committee chairperson Easter Isaak attributed the debt to a previous central government instruction not to disconnect resident’s water supply and opened all closed water meters as well as part of the debt inherited from the previous regime.
“Be as it may, we as the new council now have the responsibility to ensure the continuation of water supply to the town but can only achieve this if joining hands with you and coming up with strategical interventions,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, most residents, including pensioners, raised the concern that the outstanding amounts owed to the municipality are largely due to wrong, estimated water meter readings from the council’s side.
“We timeously paid these estimated accounts but are now billed amounts ranging in thousands of dollars for these erroneous, underestimated readings, which we feel is not fair,’’ said Mark Gertze, who also attended the meeting.
Another resident felt council should take full responsibility for failing to charge water consumption accurately instead of demanding N$25 000 from an 80-year-old pensioner only receiving a monthly social grant of N$1 300 from government.
On a request to council to install pre-paid water meters for residents to make water affordable, they were informed that this suggestion is in the pipeline.
“It is something we must first assess the feasibility and viability before implementing it,’’ Isaak explained.