Resident’s days of free water numbered
Debt stands at N$90 million
09 January 2022 | Local News
New mayor Sade Gawanas highlighted the issue of the cost of water and its abuse on social media recently, when she shared a video on Twitter of a man washing his car with a garden hose at a communal tap.
“Dear residents,” she wrote. “This is what we are dealing with now. We have been instructed by central government to keep our taps open and provide free water due to the pandemic. [Residents’ outstanding] debt stands at around N$90 million and there is no obligation to pay? Are we closing the water?” she wanted to know.
According to Gawanas, city council already decided at the last meeting of 2021 to intervene before the end of February.
“According to the municipal council of Windhoek’s minutes of 2021/11/30, resolution 240/11/2021, it was decided to stop the provision of free water to informal settlements as contained in the ministry's mandate, as this would be a serious financial caused a nuisance,” she later added.
Upon inquiry, she confirmed the resolution is for implementation by the end of February.
City of Windhoek chief communications officer Harold Akwenye said that since urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni instructed in April 2020 that water should be provided free of charge to vulnerable urban communities, central government only paid about N$12 million for the first three months.
Akwenye said the outstanding debt amount continues to rise and could grow to N$100 million by February.
“City councillors will discuss the possibility of solutions with the ministry. However, officially, the City has already written to the ministry, but no feedback has been received so far,” he said.
Sources in the municipality, who wish to remain anonymous, say council is considering recovering the debt directly from the ministry. In light of this, government offices in the capital will be cut off until the debt is paid off.
There were several reactions to Gawanas’ statement on social media, with the comments being largely opposed to cutting off access to water. While some people insist that water is a human right, others say consumers simply have to meet their payment obligations. Others feel government should pay off the debt.
By July last year, the municipality supplied about 32 000 litres of water a week to informal settlements free of charge.
Akwenye could not immediately indicate whether free water consumption has increased since then. Numerous comments on the mayor’s statements point out that abuse and waste are always the consequences when something is made available for free.
Akwenye said the municipality is preparing to start a renewed campaign of awareness and encouragement for water conservation this week.