Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is owed over P850 million. The revelation was made by Assistant Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Itumeleng Moipisi in Parliament when responding to a question from MP for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse. Moipisi said WUC is owed by domestic customers, who make the highest deb followed by government departments and ministries and the business community. He said although he did not know about claims of an operation called Tswala pompo, he is aware of an intensified campaign to disconnect those who do not pay their water bills, explaining that the disconnections started in earnest at the beginning of February 2018 and would run till end of May. He said WUC would review the number of disconnections at the end of each month and review the impact on the debt. The corporation started disconnections with customers owing over P5 000 and cascaded the operation downwards after to those owing around P2 000. The requirement, he said, was that the customer pay their water bill within 30 days of the date of the bill, and that in most cases, people disconnected were those who had owed WUC for over three months.
Moipisi explained that hospitals and primary schools would not be disconnected, explaining that for government, they minimise the impact on the public and strategic institutions.WUC usually disconnect ministry headquarters and other government offices, a strategy that Moipisi said had proven to be an effective way of exerting pressure to pay. He explained that they have regular engagements with ministries and in some cases joint teams are put in place to address any issues on debts. He said it was their hope that people would not resort to unhealthy sources because in the past none such had been experienced. “It should be noted that disconnections are not new as it is something that we do every month. It is just that sometimes we do massive disconnections,” he said.
Moipisi explained that despite the disconnections, they use other measures to try and recover the debts and only use disconnections as a last resort. Some of the measures used includ repeated calls and follow-ups to those owing, letters of demand and sometimes the legal route. He said the disconnections are meant to encourage customers who have contracts with WUC to pay so that the organisation could raise money to recover the cost of producing and treating water, especially since water tariffs were already subsidised. MP Keorapetse had asked the minister to confirm whether WUC was owed over P850 million, and if the corporation had indeed embarked on massive water disconnections dubbed ‘Tswala Pompo’. He also asked the minister to state the commencement date, the minimum amount one had owe to attract a disconnection penalty and the exact number of disconnections thus far. Keorapetse had also wanted to know if government departments such as schools and hospitals would be affected.