Walvis Bay community protest against Redforce

Niël Terblanché

A public outcry has emerged against RedForce Debt Management, a company contracted by the municipality of Walvis Bay, to recover outstanding debts from residents.

This discontent culminated in a protest march, with demonstrators demanding the municipality sever ties with RedForce over their debt collection methods.

Residents in a petition argued that the firm’s practices have not only exacerbated their financial burdens but have also led to essential services, such as water supply, being disconnected for some.

The Walvis Bay Municipality’s decision to employ RedForce stems from an attempt to recoup approximately N$375 million in debt.

The municipality stated that traditional internal measures to collect debt had proven ineffective, necessitating an external solution.

Kevin Adams, a spokesperson for the municipality, reiterated the thoroughness of the procurement process for RedForce, insisting on transparency, fairness, and respect for debtors throughout their partnership.

However, the community’s grievances starkly contrast the municipality’s stance.

Protesting residents stated in their petition that they now face a significant increase in their debts, with some facing charges as high as N$80,000 for water supply after RedForce’s fees were added.

Allegations of illegal disconnections and the imposition of a 12 percent extra charge on outstanding debts have further fueled the uproar.

The protesting group questioned the legality of RedForce’s operations, particularly its authority to disconnect services and enforce additional fees without proper legal mandates.

The municipality, facing financial challenges, has prioritized land development and infrastructure projects in its N$609 million budget for the 2023/2024 financial year, earmarking funds for various developmental and service delivery-related projects.

This initiative indicates an effort by the local authority to spur investment and job creation, despite the ongoing controversy over debt collection practices.

In the backdrop of these protests is the municipality’s prolonged absence of a permanent CEO, a role unfilled since November 2021 following investigations into alleged irregularities by former executives.

This leadership vacuum may contribute to the municipality’s challenges in balancing effective governance with community satisfaction.

This situation underscores the delicate balance between enforcing debt collection for municipal sustainability and maintaining public trust and welfare.

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