By Surihe Gaomas ONDANGWA Hundreds upon hundreds of Namibians from all walks of life flocked to the town of Ondangwa to witness the official opening of Phase One of the Northern Railway Extension Project on Saturday that cost N$841 million to complete. The much-anticipated 246-km railway line from Tsumeb to Ondangwa is viewed as a vital communication link that will enhance regional trade within Southern Africa. The inauguration was well attended by high-ranking government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, traditional leaders and other dignitaries. The Nehale Lyapingana Station was also opened on Saturday at Ondangwa. As this is a national project that took close to two years to complete, a whole mass of people came to witness President Hifikepunye Pohamba, accompanied by the Founding Father Dr Sam Nujoma, cutting the ribbon and the “omugulugwombashe train cake” marking this significant event. Due to the intensity of the crowd members of the National Youth Service and police officials had to form a human chain in order to control the masses crowding both within and outside the fenced station area. Even the windy weather did not deter the crowd. Commending the entire nation for their tireless efforts in completing Phase One of the Northern Railway Extension Project, President Pohamba said that this project is of great significance to many Namibians as the nation rallied to the calls to complete the project on time. “Our people have demonstrated a remarkable sense of duty and dedication through volunteer work to this important task. Because of their hard work through their sweat and their toil, Namibia is now proud to have a national asset that will serve our people for many years to come,” he said addressing the masses present. The Head of Sate elaborated further that this new infrastructure brings along with it new opportunities and benefits for the country and the wider SADC Region. “It will provide affordable, safe and reliable transport for goods and passengers within Namibia,” said President Pohamba, adding that other economic spin offs will boost trade between Namibia and other SADC countries like Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ultimately the Northern Railway Extension Project, which commenced on June 12, 2002, is part and parcel of government’s efforts to alleviate poverty and unemployment, especially in a country where the small and medium enterprises sector must be seen to play a major role in socio-economic development. In view of the challenges of budget constraints and limited resources in the country, President Pohamba commended all Namibians for a job well done. “The people of Namibia have done a commendable job in completing Phase One of the extension project on time. We now have Phase Two and Three ahead of us. We must work as hard as we did during Phase One, to bring about a speedy completion of the remaining two phases,” said President Pohamba, agreeing with the Founding Father that this next phase of 55-km railway line to Oshikango can take the nation six months to complete. A word of gratitude was also expressed to the Founding Father Dr Nujoma for his visionary leadership in lunching this national project on March 15, 2002. “The arrival of rail transport at Ondangwa has a significant meaning for this area because it means that we have reclaimed the initiative from the colonial authorities that had for long imposed their rule in this country,” said Dr Nujoma to an ululating crowd. He added that this project belongs to all Namibians who worked hard in making it a reality. “We have proven to humankind that we can do exactly what they can do,” said Dr Nujoma. During the construction of the project, 24 contracts were awarded and the section between Tsumeb and Oshivelo was constructed using mechanical-based contractors because of the difficult geographical makeup. The stations built so far are the Dr Sam Nujoma Station at Oshivelo, the station at Omuthiya-Gwiipundi and the new one at Ondangwa that was named after war veteran Nehale Lyapingana. Over 19 000 locals were employed as they completed 1,6 million tasks, resulting in an average earning of N$18 207 per person. Other figures show that 44 000 volunteers took part in the project and finished 22 000 tasks altogether. The second phase of the railway extension from Ondangwa to Oshikango is expected to start soon.
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