By Chrispin Inambao RUNDU Once unenviably listed among the filthiest towns in Namibia, Rundu, now under the command of functional administrators, as opposed to the ceremonial variety, has changed for the better as it boasts decent streets and is able to lure serious investors. After its proclamation it initially faced various teething problems that stunted growth, but the town of 72 000 residents finally appears to have found a winning formula as could easily be attested by the ongoing construction of a new multi-million-dollar shopping mall. Once completed the mall, that would consist of several shops and office space, is the brainchild of a consortium of local investors in collaboration with a wealthy Egyptian businessman. A low-cost housing project still on the drawing board involving the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) would see hundreds of houses built at the town and private investors want to construct houses targeting the well-off on a stretch of land along the riverside. Nkarapamwe is the largest when compared to the other residential areas of Safari, Sauyemwa, Sunset, Ndama along the Trans-Caprivi Highway and Tutungeni. Apart from the several open-air informal trading areas, this northeastern town has three major markets where a multitude of traders sell CDs, DVDs, audiotapes, cosmetics, curios, rice, flour, indigenous vegetables, fish, scones, and a myriad of cheap imports from Asia. Despite the recent heavy-handed crackdown on shebeens, its nightlife is not so bad. Population growth at this provincial headquarters stands at 1,9 percent while its economic growth trails not so far behind at 1.2 percent, according to Anthony John Scholtz now acting as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the Rundu Town Council. Scholtz, who was headhunted from Henties Bay, to fix the mess created by the administration under the now suspended Lucas Muhepa, in what is proving to be a rather protracted labour dispute, is proving he is worth his weight in gold as the town is now able to record some growth. “Due to expansion we had to revisit our corporate structure which was approved by the town council and was endorsed by NAPWU. We are just waiting for government approval,” a buoyant Scholtz told New Era in a recent interview in his office. Another “turning point” in his administration is a five-year strategic tarring programme that started last month and will last until 2011 that will see more streets being tarred. At the moment Rundu only has five kilometres of tarred road surface – the rest being gravel. With regard to this project the acting CEO says: “The financial implications are extremely high. We intend to tar one-and-half kilometres each financial year.” The financial implications to cover with tarmacadam a stretch of one-and-half kilometres of road surface would be N$1 million and their budget is designed in such a way that the tarring project will be an “employment creation mechanism,” he said. Local tenders will be invited and Black Economic Empowerment projects will also be considered for the five-year tarring project that is aimed at improving the streets. On the refuse removal side, the town council decided to split the tender into four components, namely, for garden refuse, domestic refuse and for business and industrial. Scholtz says the Rundu Town Council has what it calls a “disability action plan” where on a rotational basis it employs groups of between sixteen and seventeen consisting of the disabled who are contracted to clean storm water channels, prune trees and sweep the streets. These groups of disabled from both sexes are further tasked with street marking. In turn and every month-end the town council fairly pays them N$500 for their sweat. And in the Solid Waste Management Project this municipality has enlisted the services of women from Donkerhoek, Safari and Nka-rapamwe to address the growing waste problem. With regard to the planned projects, Scholtz said the shopping mall would cost N$3,8 million. In October 2005 the town council approved a high-income residential area overlooking the scenic floodplain. Spread over a nine-hectare piece of land the project entails construction of 45 stylish dwellings and it will include eight commercial and 24 plots for the hospitality industry. Mega-Construction, a Windhoek firm run by Namibians, is behind the ambitious project. While NHE, the housing parastatal, intends constructing up to 2 000 housing units ranging from low-cost to high-cost units on a plot running parallel to the Trans-Caprivi Highway. Scholtz says his team wants to replicate successful projects implemented in other regions under Learn From Other People’s Programmes popularly known by its acronym (LEFOP), an initiative mooted in Windhoek in 1991 by a group consisting mainly of Unam students. New Era was also showed a pile of applications by organizations wanting to establish operations at Rundu. At the moment the municipality is in the process to evaluate applications from the Social Security Commission (SSC) and from the Roads Authority (RA). Despite this growth the town sadly has unemployment of 62 percent while the per capita income for Sunset, Kaisosi, Kasote, Sauyemwa and a portion of Ndama stands at N$150 per month. Like in most parts of the country the northeastern town is also grappling with HIV/AIDS and presently Nieuwegein (Netherlands) has seconded Dirk Bellens as HIV/AIDS coordinator at the town. Bellens, whose office resorts under that of the acting CEO, is largely mandated to coordinate the functions of all the stakeholders involved in HIV/AIDS. It has since emerged the NGOs, faith-based organi-sations, the Regional AIDS Coordinating Committee (RACOC), Catholic AIDS Action (CAA), and the Ministry of Health and Social Services are all disjointed, as they apparently prefer working in isolation from one another at Rundu. Rundu, where it is estimated 21percent of the population between 13 and 45 years old is HIV-positive, has identified HIV/AIDS as one of the major threats to its development. The town also has a twinning agreement with Nieuwegein in a municipal accord that has over the years evolved from donor-oriented to know-how exchange. Nieuwegein is a young medium sized commuter town in the centre of the Netherlands in the province of Utrecht. Apart from the assistance from Nieuwegein, Lux Development has been involved in assisting the town through capacity building while putting its finances in working order.
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