The snowball effect

10 April 2019 | Columns

The ailing state of local government in Namibia is succinctly illustrated by the current woes at the Rehoboth town council, which owes NamWater N$20 million, while NamPower is owed a whopping N$99.6 million, as the town battles to keep its lights on and taps running.

It was also revealed during a recent town meeting that residents owe the council N$150 million in outstanding rates and taxes.

Yet this represents the tip of the iceberg. It is well-known that several local authorities are floundering in much the same way to keep head above water, so to speak.

Last year some areas in Rundu were left without water for five days after NamWater discontinued its service due to the town over defaulting in payments.

At the time the town owed NamWater N$60 million. In 2017 NamWater reduced Karasburg's water supply because of a debt of N$6 million, while in 2018 the Keetmanshoop municipality has failed to meet a deadline set by NamPower to pay N$16 million or risk being taken to court.

NamPower had demanded that council should pay by 14 February 2018.

In March this year, auditor-general Junias Kandjeke reported 24 local authorities to the National Assembly for their perennial failure to submit financial statements to his office as required by law.

The information was contained in a special report on the non-submission of financial statements by some local authorities, regional councils and statutory bodies for the financial years ended 30 June 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The ongoing financial malaise at local government level is heavily impacting on the ability of council to deliver to residents. These woes test the patience of people, with sporadic protests flaring, which does not augur well for peace and stability.

The core functions of councils are being heavily compromised, while people wait for the rapid release of land and development come. This in turn fosters a feeling of hopelessness among ordinary Namibians. In the same breath, non-payment for council services has a snowball effect and cannot be condoned.