• (Part II of an interview, of which the first part was published in the edition of Friday, June 8.)
Empowerment of local communities is key to unlocking the economic and social potential of the Kunene Region. This is the opinion of Ambassador Joshua //Hoebeb, who is the Governor of the Kunene Region. Being a year and seven months in office, New Era’s Francis Xoagub had a one-on-one interview with him on a wide range of issues such as tribalism, development, unemployment, etc.
(In Friday’s Part I it was wrongly stated that Ambassador //Hoebeb marked six months in office when New Era interviewed him. New Era regrets the error.)
Ambassador //Hoebeb, a retired school teacher and a seasoned diplomat with a proven track record, played a key role in the independence struggle of Namibia, especially the integration of Walvis Bay into the mainland. He served as Namibia’s High Commissioner to Botswana during the volatile years of the boundary dispute between the two countries over Kasikili/Sedudu Island.
The soft-spoken //Hoebeb, who turns 76 this year, is known for his impressive record of quiet diplomacy, resolving deep rooted political differences using his political maturity and charisma.
Because of his remarkable record, Namibia’s second President Hifikepunye Pohamba recalled him from retirement in 2010 to serve as the Governor of the Kunene Region. This is the only region still under the control of the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA). New Era had the privilege to interview him at his office in Opuwo.
NE: Some residents have angrily expressed their concern about the deteriorating situation of development in the Kunene Region, especially at towns such as Khorixas, Kamanyab and Outjo. What is your honest observation and what would you like to see in terms of addressing the concerns of the inhabitants of this region?
AJH: “If you take the little town of Kamanjab, I must admit that it has not grown at all, but literally stagnated over the years. It is still the same Kamanjab that I knew 30 to 40 years ago.
There is no reason why this town should not grow as it is literally on the four-way connecting towns such as Khorixas, Opuwo and Outjo. The community of this town needs to be encouraged and revitalized so that they themselves can take the development of the town forward. Similarly with Khorixas. My heart goes out to Khorixas as the numbers of people are dwindling, rapidly becoming less and less.
Where are they going? They go to towns that provide them with livelihoods.
But again, it depends entirely on the community that lives in that area to number themselves and address the challenges and develop the town in order to retain the residents and by so doing, bring the much-needed development.
“The young people have to put more effort into what can be done. I and the former Governor thought to bring the tarred road from Walvis Bay via Khorixas as it will divide some of the traffic that go to Omusati and the rest of the north. By so doing drivers will stop over in Khorixas and spend money by booking into hotels, etc. and invigorate the economy of those towns. But again, it depends on how how the travellers will be treated by those communities. If they are welcome, they will pass on a regular basis.”
NE: What is your opinion on the succession debate, which is currently topical in the country? You have been recalled from retirement to become the Governor of the Kunene Region. Any regrets?
AJH: “With regard to the question that I have any regrets I will say no, simply because the President thought there might still be a spark left in me and that I can also make a contribution in spite of all the shortcomings I may have as a retired former diplomat.
When I was taken from Parliament and assigned as a diplomat to South Africa and subsequently to Botswana, I thought why me? But as time went on, I found out what the purpose of my posting was. I was one success after the other. In South Africa, I was at the right place at the right time as it was during the time of the integration of Walvis Bay. What we have done is for history to judge.
Coming to Kunene, I have also no regrets except to say that I would have loved to continue with my retirement and planting trees and doing something I love to do. But when the President looked in my direction I had no option. I have received so much goodwill from the Kunene people, contrary to negative reports in the media. Regarding the succession issue – that’s politics. I wish I could be part of that discussion, but I have chosen not to be. It’s quite an interesting debate. It shows that democracy has come of age and that we are maturing as a nation as we can raise issues that are thorny.
“In other countries whenever these issues are raised, bloodshed follows. It is good to note that no one has been beaten up for expressing his/her opinion. Hopefully, we will continue to learn from other countries that we can open up debate around the issue of succession. For me, it is not a question of a particular person but it is a question of the skills that person has that will ultimately carry that position to be the supreme leader of this country. Whether it’s going to be a woman or a man, I want a skilful person. The person should give us an indication that he/she will be a good leader.”
NE: Anything else that you would like to add?
AJH: It is my wish that one day the water from the Kunene River will be accessible to the people. No one in his right mind can promote the growth of Kunene Region and have economic activities if you do not have enough water.
And finally, I would like to see a positive direction in the construction of the hydro electric dam so that Kunene Region can make a contribution to the economic development by providing power to the rest of the country.”