Katutura residents seek answers

Elizabeth Kheibes
Exasperated Katutura residents gathered yesterday in front of the City of Windhoek's (CoW) debt management department and demanded answers about the debt of more than N$520 million that was believed to have been written off.
The residents say that the municipality promised to write off certain debts last year, but has not said a word about it since November.
According to a letter from the Katutura residents' committee to the municipality's management, an announcement about debt relief was made on 30 November 2023 and councillors described it as a Christmas gift.
However, according to the residents, this announcement was vague and another announcement on 14 December still did not yield answers. Yesterday, residents insisted on seeing the municipality's chief executive, Moses Matjayi, and, according to them, hearing "from the horse's mouth" what is causing the delay in writing off the debt.
The municipality's spokesperson, Lydia Amutenya, said Matjayi took up every issue raised by the residents personally with them instead of simply handing them a prepared document.
Registration to begin
According to Amutenya, the registration for debt relief will start on 15 February and will provide 100% relief on capital amounts and interest for pensioners and 50% for businesses and "ordinary" residents.
According to her, pensioners who turned 60 years and older after 30 November last year are the only senior citizens who will be considered for debt relief.
Concerning debt relief for estates, this will only be granted if the deceased was 60 years or older when he/she died. Any person who died before that age is not eligible for debt relief.
Residents, led by Shaun Gariseb, said when they approached the CoW to make payments, they were sent away with instructions to bring more money.
For her part, Ellen Johannes (68) said that when they have money to pay off their outstanding bills, they are told that it is not enough. "I am a pensioner with no income and no support. My husband died 24 years ago and since then I have been left with debts that I cannot pay."
Windhoek's former mayor, Sade Gawanas, explained to residents that certain regulations apply to the payment of debts, which must be followed. "For all residents, there is a minimum amount that must be paid for the outstanding debt. The municipality requires a payment of not less than a third of the total outstanding amount to start further arrangements for down payment," she said.
According to the municipality, residents must have a pre-paid water and electricity meter or have applied for one to qualify for debt relief. "If you do not have access to pre-paid meters, we will help you apply when you register for debt relief so that you can qualify," Amutenya said.