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Protesters march on city over RedForce

Residents of Okahandja town and Katutura are demanding that their debts must be written off and that the municipality should get rid of debt collectors RedForce Debt Management.

The residents yesterday staged a mass demonstration in Windhoek against the municipality’s debt management process.

The chairperson of the Katutura Residents Committee, Benestus Kandundu, handed a petition over to Windhoek mayor Joseph Uapingene. In the petition, residents are requesting the municipality to write off their water and electricity debts.

They asked that the municipality should introduce a prepaid water and electricity system at Katutura, as the conventional system contributes to high debts. “We are also calling for the removal of RedForce as debt collector . . . there is no need for an external debt collector,” he said.

The residents said they expected a response from the Windhoek City Council by 7 July.

If they do not receive a favourable response, they will approach the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, they said.
Uapingene said he was pleased that residents are willing to discuss the matter.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the communities, as well as the municipality. Somehow we have to meet halfway so that the municipality and the residents can both be happy,” he said.

He said the municipality buys water and electricity from NamWater and NamPower.

“So, if we cannot get money from this side, how do we pay our suppliers?” he asked.

Yesterday’s demonstration comes after community leaders handed over two petitions to the Okahandja municipality earlier this year with no response.

A letter, dated 8 April and addressed to president Hage Geingob, highlighted multiple issues.

According to the letter, municipal administrators resolved to appoint a debt collector without consulting the community. The debts are said to have been outstanding for more than 20 years.

Community activist Seth Gariseb yesterday said: “It is unacceptable that a company can come into a community and simply take control of essential services without consulting the people.”

He also suggested that the municipality introduces prepaid meters, and recommended that half the payments be split between accumulated debt and services.

Okahandja Town Council member Akser Aupindi demanded that the contract between the Okahandja municipality and RedForce be terminated as a matter of urgency.

This comes after Aupindi sent a motion to the council on 21 June, requesting the municipality to make public the contract signed between the municipality and RedForce.

“ But this has fallen on deaf ears,” he said on Monday.

Aupindi said he was not aware of the appointment of RedForce as debt collector at Okahandja.

“We have received about six petitions this year alone on the issue of RedForce, on which we cannot provide information, because we don’t have information,” he said.

Tjitombo this week said he could not discuss procurement with the media.

CEO and legal adviser at RedForce Margeret Malambo yesterday said the agency is simply doing its job.

“ . . . within the prescribed parameters of relevant policies and laws,” she said.

Malambo said the protesters do not see the bigger picture when it comes to RedForce’s role.

“ We only contact people who owe money to our clients, and the only way our clients can adequately service the residents, protesters included, is if all monies owed to them are paid in full and timeously,” she said.