Pensioners line up to sign up for debt relief

Martin Endjala

The City of Windhoek (CoW) has launched a debt relief initiative aimed specifically at aiding elderly residents, with 500 pensioners already registered for the program.

Lydia Amutenya, the CoW’s Public Communications Officer, reported a smooth registration process since its commencement on February 15.

The program, which continues until April 15, 2024, is designed to alleviate the financial burdens on pensioners by offering a debt write-off.

Amutenya clarified that the initiative is exclusive to pensioners, while non-pensioners and businesses will benefit from an automatic 50 percent interest write-off.

“To date, around 500 pensioners have signed up. Applicants must provide all necessary documentation and fulfil the eligibility criteria,” she stated.

The ambitious program aims to cancel debts totalling N$524 million, with N$223 million allocated for the pensioners’ debts across approximately 26,000 municipal accounts.

This figure also encompasses debts from non-pensioners, business interests, informal leases, and outstanding ambulance service payments.

Debt forgiveness, according to Amutenya, is a significant step towards providing financial relief to Windhoek’s residents, particularly the elderly.

By erasing N$524 million in debts – N$223 million of which directly aids pensioners – the city hopes to offer a fresh start to those affected.

She also highlighted that the transition to prepaid services for water and electricity is expected to help residents better manage their future expenses and ensure the CoW’s financial statements accurately reflect its fiscal health.

The need for such a program was emphasized by comments from Benestus Kandundu, Chairperson of the Katutura Residents’ Committee, who in August 2023 voiced concerns over the disproportionate debt owed by residents in comparison to the value of their homes.

This announcement followed a June 2023 statement from the CoW disclosing that residents collectively owed the city N$1.2 billion, prompting the launch of the debt write-off initiative in November 2023.

Under this program, pensioners will see a 100 percent cancellation of both capital and interest, contingent upon their registration with the municipality and agreement to install prepaid meters for water and electricity.

Only debts accrued until November 30, 2023, are eligible for the write-off, with subsequent debts requiring full repayment to participate in the program.

This strategic move by the CoW aims not only to alleviate financial stress for its senior residents but also to encourage responsible utility usage and improve the city’s fiscal management.

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