Johannesburg – Municipal water debt is expected to balloon by an alarming R1.5bn per year if the culture of non-payment continues, the Water Trading Entity said on Monday.
For the first six months of the financial year, debt has grown by R788m, said Water Trading Entity acting chief financial officer Paul Nel.
“We estimate if nothing gets done it’s going to grow (by) about R1.5bn every year. That is money that should be used elsewhere,” Nel emphasised at a media briefing by Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on earlier on Monday.
Of the 186 municipalities indebted to the Department of Water and Sanitation, 30 have received notice of water cuts if their debt of over 60 days is not paid before December 8.
“So there is just a culture of non-payment,” Nel said, adding that municipal debt had been growing for more than seven years.
Monkonyane said the 30 municipalities owe the department R10.7bn in total.
She has warned that the department would not be merciful to the defaulting municipalities and would use all its resources to recoup the money. This includes requesting Treasury to freeze its water budget to the municipalities.
“We have been very lenient,” Mokonyane said.
The minister cited municipalities not sticking to agreements as one of the challenges faced by the department.
To date, the department has issued 59 summonses for non-payment.
Mokonyane said of all the municipalities in debt, the OR Tambo district in the Eastern Cape was the only municipality that had complied with a payment plan agreed to.