16 August 2018

Namibia: Katima Water Metres Project Remains in Limbo

KATIMA MULILO - The future of the pre-paid water metres project seemingly foisted on residents of Katima Mulilo by the town council remains unknown, after the Zambezi regional governor Lawrence Sampofu halted the project in June and ordered the council to ensure residents are consulted.

The planned introduction of the water metres seems to have been halted after residents of the town verbally abused the CEO of Katima Mulilo Raphael Liswaniso and apparently made 'death threats.'

The town council claims it wanted to install the water metres from April "to allowincreased revenue and fair water charges, which in turn would reduce customer complaints and ensure compliance with payments," but its decision met stiff resistance from angry residents who complained about the N$2,500 that residents were expected to fork out for a metre.

The controversial project was supposed to be spearheaded by the Chinese company ABC Investments. Residents were of the opinion the town council simply wanted to milk the poor people, arguing that the water metres were simply too expensive as the previous system only required them to pay N$$450. The residents proceeded to hold two mass peaceful demonstrations that coupled with the death threats compelled the governor to intervene and halt the project.

However two months down the line since the project was halted it is still unclear whether it will proceed or not. Approached for comment the Katima Mulilo CEO referred questions to Sampofu.

Pressed for answers on whether the project will proceed or not, Liswaniso stated that the project was just put on hold due to the conditions which should be met, which were given by Sampofu and the Namibia Standards Institute. He was however not willing to reveal what those conditions were.

It was however reported by a weekly newspaper in June that NSI ordered the town council to stop installing the prepaid water metres acquired from China because they do not have standards approval. Liswaniso however stressed that "the project was not stopped, it was just put on hold, for us to meet the recommendations from NSI."

Sampofu stated that everything is progressing well and consultations with the community have already started. He however could not reveal whether consultations have been fruitful and whether an amicable solution will be reached soon.

The new prepaid water metres were installed in most suburbs within Katima Mulilo except in Choto and Cowboy where residents threated to attack town council officials together with Chineseinstalling company ABC Investments, if they could have attempted to forcefully implement the system on them.

The system has however been praised by those who are using it as it allows them to control their water usage, and the complaints of water metre readers fabricating the readings have been put to bed. Residents were required to pay the N$2,500 in three months which was later extended to six months instalments, but all the payments have also been put on hold until further notice.

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