Non-paying residents still have a long wait
While substantially increasing the cost of living for residents who pay their municipal accounts, the City of Windhoek said this week it will continue with its plans to write off the municipal debts for vulnerable people who qualify for the financial relief scheme.
However, it also transpired that only 900 pensioners and other vulnerable people have been registered so far while some 1300 of those identified in November 2015, are still outside the safety net.
The City of Windhoek stated that they are still in the process of registering more residents and that this is an ongoing exercise.
Responding to enquiries by the Economist, Lydia Amutenya, the Public Relations Officer for the City clarified that reconnection is done on a request basis. and for those who approached their offices, they have managed to reconnect their services. She also emphasized that the exercise is not meant to exempt the senior citizens from paying for municipal services, but to find mitigating measures that can be employed to assist vulnerable members of the society.
“So far only registration is taking place, because the criteria of who will be considered vulnerable are yet to be finalized as it is not every senior citizen that is vulnerable, therefore a criterium will be formulated to determine what constitute vulnerability,” she confirmed.
Amutenya emphasised that investigations will be made before anyone is classified as vulnerable after they have been registered to make sure that everyone who has registered deserves to be on the list and that there are no opportunists. “Residents can go to the Community Development Centre in Katutura to be registered and forms are also available at the Debt Management Division of the City as well as at all constituency offices in Windhoek,” she stated.
From the 2200 vulnerable residents identified last year, the City estimates that their combined debts will amount to approximately N$7,5 million.
The evidence obtained this week indicates that the registration process will be a drawn-out affair. While rules and regulations are still being formulated, the number of registrations as well as the small number of reconnections, both indicate that other vulnerable residents will have to wait at the back of the queue.
The City of Windhoek embarked on a similar exercise in 2012 when outstanding debts of more than N$20 million were canceled for pensioners, disabled people, and those on welfare. At that point the municipality stated that it was a once-off initiative and will not be repeated.