Helao Nafidi – A Growing Giant

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By William J. Mbangula HELAO NAFIDI The Chinese City of Nantong has signed an agreement of intention to twin with the newly-established town of Helao Nafidi in the Ohangwena Region as part of establishing economic and social development cooperation. The agreement was concluded during the visit to China by the chief executive officer (CEO) of Helao Nafidi, Christian (Chris) Shivolo and the town mayor Medusalem Handjaba who recently returned from a ten-day visit to China. According to Shivolo, the agreement will go a long way to help Helao Nafidi town to develop itself and enhance the existing good relationship between Namibia and China. As a newly established town, it needs all kind of assistance in order to be self-supporting. Declared a settlement in 1998 and proclaimed as a town on September 1, 2003, the Helao Nafidi Town Council was inaugurated in early 2004 and started its official business on October 1, 2004. Named after the late Political Commissar of PLAN, the disbanded military wing of Swapo, lan Nabot Helao Nafidi, who was better known by his nom de guerre ‘Camilo’, the name designates the combination of running the civic administrations of Ohangwena, Omafo, Engela, Oshikango and Onhuno. In its logo, there is a torch symbolising the heroism of Helao Nafidi. “He made remarkable contributions towards the total liberation of our country. The torch therefore symbolises freedom from oppression, and we are carrying it in honour of Comrade Helao Nafidi and other heroes and heroines to achieve economic independence as he also hails from our area,” states one of the town council’s in-house publications. The town has a land area measuring some 7 221 hectares most of which are still occupied by traditional villages and homesteads of previously disadvantaged Namibians. The town is growing rapidly due to an influx of people from rural areas in search of jobs, better living conditions and possible business opportunities. As a result of the impact of the influx its capacity has been stretched particularly in the areas of providing sanitation, clean water, electricity, roads and other infrastructure. CEO Shivolo told New Era that the town has become a centre of attraction in terms of development and social activities for many people from all walks of life. The interest is so huge that the town council is finding it difficult to provide land, which is still occupied by traditional communities. Although the intention is to acquire such land to accelerate development, Shivolo noted that such acquisition would have to be done methodically and systematically in order to accommodate, respect and appreciate the feelings and aspirations of all the people involved. Being the second town in the Ohangwena Region after Eenhana, the town is located in the former war zone, and was one of the most neglected and under-developed areas in Namibia. But its location near the Namibian border with Angola has given it a greater advantage for economic development when it comes to international trade. “We consider one of our suburbs, Oshikango, as the busiest economic hub of the town which we intend to develop into a centre of business excellence,” Shivolo noted. Oshikango is the gateway for many traders coming and moving out of Namibia to neighbouring countries such as Angola, DRC, Zambia, Zimbabwe and overseas countries. Such a border post has become one of Namibia’s biggest and busiest export and import points through which about 180 trucks pass through daily, while about 3 400 potential customers and investors also pass through the area on a daily basis. At the moment the council has contracted a consultant who will create a new structural development plan in order to formalise the area in and around Oshikango suburb. This will result in property owners obtaining title deeds, which will make them legal owners of their land. Such properties will be registered with the Surveyor-General and the Deeds Office as a way to help owners gain security for their property. With a current population of about 42 000, Helao Nafidi has the potential of becoming one of the giant towns of Namibia. It currently has about 1 400 erven due to be serviced to create opportunities for public utilities, housing, business and industrial development. In terms of providing housing, two financial institutions, namely, Nedbank and Standard Bank, have indicated their willingness to provide financial assistance to anyone wishing to purchase houses. Already, the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) has shown interest in building 1 000 houses over a period of three years. “We are more than ready to provide more land to the NHE and other institutions which are prepared to build houses in our town. Apart from housing we are also talking to other institutions such as government ministries to establish satellite offices here,” Shivolo noted. Some of the ministries earmarked for the immediate consultation and expansion of their services are Trade and Industry, Safety and Security (Police), Home Affairs and Immigration, Health and Social Welfare, and others. Towards the end of last year, the town council in conjunction with the Oshikango Business Association (OBA) had a successful trade and business expo. OBA made a financial contribution of N$24 400 towards the staging of this historic event. The event, which took place from 1 – 4 December, was organised to expose the potential of the town to many would-be investors, both local and foreign. Following the successful hosting, Shivolo noted, the event would be held every year and a permanent Event Management Committee has already been established to run the show annually. With regard to investment currently pledged and taking place, Shivolo told New Era that it is very overwhelming. There is a Chinese village under construction at a cost of N$18 million. It will cater for shopping in consumer goods, trade and entertainment. This is in addition to the N$12 million Chinese shopping centre at a separate venue. One of the biggest and long established investment companies in the suburb of Oshikango, the International Commercial of Raed Hijazi, the OBA Chairperson, will soon expand its two warehouses at a cost of N$7 million. A local businessman David Nghipondoka is also putting up a N$5 million retail outlet. The town council itself has injected an investment of N$8,5 million for its offices, which are due to be completed by next March. The biggest envisaged investment of all is the N$1-billion Northland City which will cover a land area of about 500 000 square metres and is expected to provide employment for about 3 500 people. The project is to be implemented in five phases with construction work expected to start next May. The billion dollar initiative includes a shopping complex, a five-star hotel, conference facilities, a casino, a nightclub, golf course, heritage museum, an Olympic size swimming-pool, an athletics track and soccer stadium, a wildlife park and entertainment centre. Northland City is a consortium of local and foreign businesses chaired by retired Ambassador Shapua Kaukungwa with its patron the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. Its land area is currently occupied by virtue of customary law and discussions are presently underway to have occupants vacate it before the actual construction starts. Once fully constructed, it is expected to be considered as the ‘Sun City’ of Namibia, some people say. “There is light at the end of the tunnel concerning economic development by public and private institutions. We are working day and night to ensure that our strategic development goals are achieved,” said the CEO. As part of the marketing strategy of the town, the management of the town has gone out of their way to establish potential links that will help to market the town to other developed cities and towns in the world. Already the South African High Commissioner to Namibia Timothy Maseko has visited the town. As a result of his visit, the town council here has received a delegation from Limpopo Province to discuss possible ways of cooperation. Another high-level visit, which could result in more cooperation, was that of the Botswana High Commissioner to Namibia Norman Moleboge. “We have all the ingredients needed for our town to prosper. The land is there, the opportunities are there, we are strategically located and our town is a multi-national society including Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Ango-lans, Portuguese, Chinese, Brazilians and many more,” said the dynamic CEO Shivolo. Being the biggest and busiest border point, Oshi-kango as part of Helao Nafidi Town is expected to inject much life in the development of the area. It is for this reason that the town council is working day and night to make sure that all key basic facilities are available in and around this suburb. Another of the plans is to establish a 3-km airstrip, a container depot in anticipation of the railway station for the much talked about Tsumeb-Oshikango railway line and also to establish a truck port. Since the town’s structure was found to be in a shambles because the area was only considered as a military post for the then colonial administration, a proper structural plan is being prepared to address the imbalance of the past when it comes to the provision of the most basic of needs. As part of ensuring essential sustainable development, the town council has identified areas for different resettlement purposes and needs such as sewerage systems, road networks, streetlights, electricity supply, and water reticulation and gravel roads. Other plans are underway to build open market stalls, and an abattoir and other related facilities at the suburb of Oshikango. Being located near the border with Angola, the town became the first point of contact of the past military battles. As a result many of its residents became the primary victims of the war. The absence of a properly planned structure has resulted in the newly established council to start from scratch by purchasing operational facilities. Amongst these are the water tankers, tractors equipped with tipping trailers, rubbish bins, back loaders and the recently purchased fire-fighting machine at a cost of close to N$200 000. ” We have touched base with the City of Windhoek for assistance as to how to manage the fire-fighting machine as well as other facilities. We all know that the City of Windhoek is one of the best-run areas with the most advanced facilities and technical know-how,” said the CEO.