By Marshallino Beukes
Good Samaritans in Rehoboth are reaching out to their neighbors with water supplies while the Rehoboth Town Council is accused of not having empathy with residents.
A large number of Rehoboth residents are currently without running water at their homes after this essential service has been suspended by the Town Council due to default and overdue bills. The twist, however, is the fact that many of these "overdue" accounts appear to be in error and residents of the town are furious, with social media buzzing about the matter. There is also frustration as the Rehoboth Town Council is also creating barriers to ensure that residents who are in arrears on their water bills do not buy electricity. The affected households are now without water, as well as electricity. In at least one case, a resident was blocked from buying electricity, as he is N$ 1050 in arrears on his property taxes. According to the information which is available, the resident arranged to pay at least N$500 now and the rest at month end, but this was dismissed by the Town Council. He was then advised to pay at least N$1,000 before he could buy electricity again.
In another case, an elderly resident offered to pay N$300 on her overdue loan instalment of N$500, but was apparently warned by the cashier to pay the full amount or else her water would be suspended and she would also no longer be able to buy electricity. In an interview with The Patriot, the pensioner revealed that she was coerced into paying the full amount, and consequently she was unable to purchase electricity and food. “What can I do, my child? I will not be able to survive without water and electricity – I just have to pay,” she remarked,wretchedly. In its defense, the Rehoboth Town Council argues that “the credit control policy provides that the debt and debt repayment arrangements must be treated holistically, but different repayment periods or methods can be determined for different types of debtors or arrears, within the general rule that repayment periods must be in accordance with the payments that the debtor can afford." Rehoboth Town Council Public Relations Officer, Desire Theunissen further noted that the Council reserves the right to impose cost recovery measures in accordance with its credit control policy on all services provided to the public.
Theunissen emphasized that this drastic step by the Town Council "creates a culture of good payment habits for services rendered and that it promotes a sense of responsibility towards the payment of municipal services and the reduction of municipal debt." Theunissen further argued that the Rehoboth Town Council has “an open door policy” and encourages residents to consult with the Department of Finance regarding the payment of arrears on their accounts. The Rehoboth Town Council owes Namwater approximately N$9 million. Informal settlements in the town are also struggling with the unavailability of running water, but as a result of sustained pressure on the local authority leadership by activists, the Town Council erected prepaid water points in one of the settlements, Sonderwater, last December.
However, these new meters are already experiencing technical problems, compelling residents of the area to scramble around to get hold of water. Some of the residents affected are particularly concerned about the fact that schoolchildren and pensioners also reside in this area. Rehoboth businessman and community activist, Rudi Van Wyk, is one of the good Samaritans who supplies water to residents of Sonderwater. Van Wyk bought a water tank which he fills up with water at his own home and transports it to the area, where residents have the opportunity to fill their buckets and jugs with water. Residents of Sonderwater told The Patriot that some residents demand N$5 for 20 liters of water. Sonderwater is located in Block E, Rehoboth East Constituency.