Rundu water war

Illegal settlers on council land claimed that the suspension of water provision was putting their lives at risk.

21 May 2019 | Local News

Thousands of Tumweneni informal settlement residents, who are illegally occupying Rundu town council land, have had their water supply restored, after complaining that their lives were being put at risk.

This was after they were deprived of water for five days at the behest of the town council.

NamWater fills up the community's 10 000-litre water tank about three times a week at a cost of N$375 per trip and has been doing so since January. Two weeks ago, NamWater stopped supplying water to the informal settlement situated on the outskirts of Rundu. About 700 households have settled there since July last year.

Acting Rundu CEO Sikongo Haihambo had informed NamWater that it was not within the parastatal's mandate to supply water directly to Tumweneni, as the occupied land is within the town council's boundaries. However, last Wednesday evening at around 19:00 NamWater's regional head for the two Kavango regions, Johannes Muremi, escorted a water truck to Tumweneni to restore the community's water supply. This was done without prior payment. NamWater spokesperson Hieronymus Goraseb said the water supply was restored after they investigated the matter.

Goraseb said no prior discontinuation notice was issued to the community. It was also alleged that the area is not within the town's boundaries and that the community has no alternative source of water.

“The supply of water to the community on the outskirts of Rundu was discontinued at the request of the Rundu town council, on the assumption that the community is within the Rundu townlands,” Goraseb said. “However, the affected community complained about the suspension of their water supply, indicating that they received no notice of suspension, and that they are living outside the boundaries of Rundu and that there is no provision of water to them from any other source but through the NamWater tankers, and that this suspension would be putting their lives at risk.”

Goraseb said NamWater then investigated the matter and resolved to resume the affected community's water supply, until such time that due process is followed and completed, which would resolve the issue properly. Haihambo said he is not aware of the latest developments.

“I don't know what NamWater is doing. I have taken note of it and will follow it up,” Haihambo said.

He also gave the council's version of the saga last week, before the water supply was restored.

He said he had engaged with NamWater based on the fact that it was not in the mandate of the state-owned enterprise (SOE) to sell water directly to residents living on townland, without going through the council. Haihambo said the council is mindful of the fact that some of these services are very basic, but it had to strike a balance between maintaining order and fuelling lawlessness.

“The supply of water has not been facilitated through us, so every SOE and local authority has their respective mandate,” he said.

Haihambo said he became aware of NamWater directly supplying Tumweneni a few weeks ago.

“On my side it was just a few weeks ago; I have been seeing a tank there, but I did not know who was supplying it with water, assuming that it was individuals, but when I realised that it was the SOE, I then communicated with their regional office,” he said. Haihambo said what was needed was a coordinated approach towards service delivery, because they do not want to have conflicting outcomes. Haihambo said they will have a meeting with the Tumweneni informal settlement committee in the course of this week.

“As we speak we are looking at interacting with the committee. We are looking at having a meeting with them. As to whether the meeting will turn out fruitful, it is very difficult to tell. It is going to depend on the willingness of the parties to have sober minds and to listen to each other and be law-abiding,” Haihambo said.

The community indicated they moved to Rundu in search of job opportunities. Some indicated they were born and bred in Rundu and have been applying for land since 2002. They further explained that some of them have secured labourer jobs, but cannot afford to pay the exorbitant rental prices in town.

“They call it illegal land grabbing, but we see it as looking for shelter.”

KENYA KAMBOWE

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