THE town of Opuwo is a mishmash of buildings and a haphazard arrangement of clay and corrugated-iron dwellings interrupted by small businesses, mainly watering holes along its main tarred road, in fact, the only tarred road in the town, which is home to around about 20 000 inhabitants.
Although this relic of the indigenous Ovahimba tribe reminds one of the apartheid homeland system – one is immediately taken up by the unbelievable air of civilisation and the laid back approach that prevails among the many youths, meandering freely among the dozens of shebeens. While agriculture provides for the major income of the indigenous residents – the town is booming with tourists, ostensibly fascinated by the living style and traditional dress code of the Ovahimba tribe.
The Namibian government certainly deserves a pat on the back for its tireless efforts to bring development to this part of the country and its previously disadvantaged inhabitants. However, the essence of development seems to be totally misunderstood by this disenfranchised community as only a selected few are reaping the fruits. The core suppliers of basic needs are in the pale palms of the elite minority, while the cultural heritage of the few blacks that are conducting business on a small-scale remains questionable.
The principle of bringing development to remote areas in the shape of shopping centres is a brilliant exercise since it provides jobs for the many unemployed young people at the town.
However, there are still many challenges and an outstanding debate regarding this sort of development, because the genuine inhabitants will find themselves holding the short end of the stick as they are always left to pick up the leftovers.
As matters stand now, the playing ground is not level, but alas, who is to be blamed for this mess? It is entirely up to the people of Opuwo to aggressively encroach the economic activities at the town.
To worsen matters, the shadowy long-standing Red Line that prohibits communal farmers from that area to sell their livestock at market related prices, remains another unsustainable exercise since sellers are constantly at the mercy of buyers who enjoy the luxury of determining the purchase price at their own discretion.
In other proclaimed towns in the former homelands such as Oshakati and Ondangwa, the rightful inhabitants are the chief beneficiaries of the various development projects taking place in their own domains under the auspices of the local authorities.
Indigenous people in Opuwo must wake up and smell the coffee if they are to snap out of their self-imposed slumber and unintended slavery.
Community leaders should urgently introduce development programmes, aimed at revitalising the community.
It is absolutely pointless to build modern houses for people if the targeted beneficiaries are unable to sustain the property, let alone afford the monthly mortgage.
The vast rocky area of Opuwo makes it extremely difficult for would-be buyers to purchase houses because of the exorbitant purchase prices. Government commitment alone will not guarantee success and the inhabitants of Opuwo must be encouraged to start knuckling down to some serious business and become business entrepreneurs of note.