|Gobabis drowning in debt|
|Written by Edson Haufiku|
|Wednesday, 18 July 2012 22:56|
THE Gobabis Municipality, responsible for delivering basic services to about 21 000 people in a community characterised by a high levels of unemployment and poverty, recorded debts of over 33 million Namibia dollars by the end of the last financial year, a situation the town’s leaders blame solely on residents.
Gobabis - Omaheke’s only town and the region’s main link to the Trans-Kalahari highway - accumulated additional debts of over N$6 million between June 2011 and June 2012, raising its debts from N$27 million in the previous year to N$33 million. This escalating debt will cost the municipality an additional N$6 million in interest charges.
According to Mayor Silla Bezuidenhout the mounting debt stems mainly from unsettled accounts of deceased and elderly residents, as well as late payment by government ministries, who are usually accorded a three-month grace-period before the suspension of municipal services.
Last year Gobabis, along with other financially struggling towns and village councils, submitted its list of defaulters to the Ministry of Local Government and Housing for possible central government bail-out. Another year is however about to elapse, without the much-needed capital injection.
Gobabis’ residents however shifted the blame to the doorstep of the municipality, which they accuse of idleness and not doing enough to develop the town, while imposing high tariffs on residents and instituting legal actions against defaulters, many of whom are pensioners. Municipal lawyers reportedly instigate legal action against residents who owe the municipality over N$10 000, a move residents claim drags defaulters deeper into debt. In addition to their municipal debts many pensioners and indigent defaulters who are in arrears are also required to pay an average of N$500 per month to satisfy the demands of municipal lawyers.
The municipality has come in for criticism because its debt recovery policy makes no distinction between those who won’t pay and those who cannot pay. “Our senior citizens are without water due to the high tariffs of the Gobabis municipality. It’s illogical for the municipality to demand such an amount from pensioners on a N$550 state pension to pay N$500 and still be able to settle their current accounts. The Municipality should strive towards innovative ideas in developing Gobabis, instead of resorting to draconian high tariffs,” wrote Aletha Kooper in a recent statement to the press.
Gobabis municipality CEO, Ephraim Davids, points out that they invite people in arrears to come and make payment arrangements. “We only resort to legal action once those heavily indebted do not make efforts to settle their municipal accounts.”
Over a hundred Gobabis residents from the Onguluwombashe and Freedom Square informal settlements held a peaceful, but vibrant demonstration in front of municipal offices last Friday, condemning the authorities for not acting on promises to improve sanitation facilities in the informal areas. They also reject the plan to relocate them.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 02 August 2012 00:25|