TSUMKWE - The rural outpost of Tsumkwe has an exhaustive list of demands for the central government, and the most pressing demand is to be declared a village council in order to revive waning investor interest.
Although there is huge potential for investment, the shortcomings of being a settlement cause investors to lose interest, claims the settlement’s chief control officer Likoro Masheshe. The settlement currently has about 400 serviced residential plots and a few business plots, which are drawing little interest.
“Tsumkwe is a rich area in terms of resources and a major tourist attraction because of its preserved culture. Apart from people burning some bushes, most of the environment in the area is undisturbed. These are all pull factors for investors once government decides to tar the road,” said Masheshe in an interview with New Era this week.
The absence of reliable bulk energy supply, guarantees on ownership of land, only a gravel road connecting the settlement to the nearest town, and the long distance to the nearest hospital are just some of the shortcomings that authorities of the rural settlement want the central government to sort out immediately. And conferring the settlement with village council status would help to do exactly that. Masheshe is certain that the area boasts among the best draw cards for investment and only the infrastructure deficiencies remain a problem.
“At the moment investors cannot really buy land [while it is still a settlement], because should [Tsumkwe] be proclaimed a village council they will lose what they have invested in their properties,” said Masheshe. Tsumkwe has a population of close to 10 000 and its most famous resident was the late N!xau, the star in the movie sequels ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’. “Small and medium size enterprises are emerging and people are venturing into business, but mainly small businesses such as grocery stores and liquor outlets,” he said.
This year government together with development partners inaugurated a N$26 million solar-diesel hybrid power plant at the settlement, and for the first time the settlement is lit up without scheduled interruptions. The closest grid electricity access point for Tsumkwe is 180 kilometres away, and over the years the settlement has had to fire up diesel generators to produce electricity. To conserve diesel the generators were only fired up for short periods of time. Power generated from the solar-diesel hybrid plant is now sold to residents for N$1 per unit for household consumption and N$1.90 per unit for commercial consumption.
“We are currently working out a new tariff structure, because under the current tariff [regime] the settlement cannot generate enough revenue to sustain itself. We decided to buy prepaid meters from Cenored, which we installed in various households,” he said.
Money generated from electricity is used mainly to cover the operational costs of running the settlement and to buy about 16 000 litres of diesel, at a cost of about N$160 000 every third month in order to sustain a back-up generator.
“Right now our biggest concern is the gravel road leading up to Tsumkwe, many lives were lost on that road and we feel it is time government considers tarring the 246 kilometres stretch of gravel road,” he said. The nearest hospital is 80 kilometres away at Mangetti Dune. Consultations between authorities of the Tsumkwe settlement and the Ministry of Health and Social Services are underway to build a hospital nearby.
“Officials from the ministry were here earlier this year to do some assessment. This will limit the distance that sick people are forced to travel to get to a hospital,” Masheshe said.