A CONFLICT is brewing in the Ompumbu location of Oshakati where residents are accusing members of a community water point committee of lack of transparency and of failing to account for the money contributed monthly by consumers.
Each month’s water bill is divided into equal amounts to be paid by each of the approximately 30 households.
Residents claim that they are not shown the actual water bill.
Rather, at the end of every month, a hand-written note is posted on a shack near the water point stating how money each household is required to pay.
They claim that the amount keeps increasing steadily even though the number of households stays the same.
By December last year, they were still paying roughly N$35 per month.
The amount for February was N$50 per household, but at the end of March the amount rose to N$60.
According to the note, seen by Informanté, the amount keeps increasing because “some of you did not pay last month”.
In response, a group of residents compiled a number of questions and posted them on the same shack.
They want to know the exact number of households using that specific water point, how many defaulted and how many paid.
They also want to know the total amount collected last month and the total owed to the town council.
They are further demanding to see documentary proof that the money they pay each month does indeed reach the town council.
“We tolerated their lack of transparency for far too long. We now want answers. We want to see proof that the total amount paid each month was indeed used to settle the water bill. Besides, why increase the amount thereby punishing those who pay regularly, instead of going after those who default? That is unfair,” said Tangeni Kandume, adding that he is a poorly paid security guard.
“N$60 is a lot of money,” he said.
Households using another water point about 150 metres away were requested to pay N$35 each for last month.
In response to residents’ demands, a member of the water point committee, Elisa Fabian, wrote a note of her own saying: “Those who think that the amount [N$60] is too high, are free to leave and move to cheaper water points elsewhere.”
Twahangana Levi – who preferred a pseudonym as she allegedly feared retribution – interpreted Fabian’s response as an insult.
“The people are merely demanding transparency and accountability for the money they pay every month, but she is responding as if the water point was her private property. She is obligated to account for the public monies entrusted to the water point committee every month. The town council needs to intervene to arrest the situation before things get out of control,” she said.
Oshakati town council spokesperson, Katarina Kamari, could not be reached for comment, but local councillor Linus Tobias explained that those who manage the community water points in the informal settlements have the duty to fully inform residents about the water bills.