South Bemoans Development Obstacles

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By Frederick Philander GIBEON The administrative inabilities of local authorities and a dire lack of proper communication with the inhabitants are some of the persisting problems hampering development in the Hardap Region. These were some of the complaints the residents this week brought to the attention of a delegation of the National Assembly that was on an in loco visit to the area to bring Parliament closer to the people. The Speaker, Theo-Ben Gurirab, and three female MP’s took time at Mariental and Gibeon on Monday and Tuesday to patiently listen during two public meetings to the magnitude of the socioeconomic and political problems the people of the south daily face. Large numbers of the respective communities attended both meetings, which at times became very emotional. On Tuesday the Gibeon Village Council was lambasted as a useless and incompetent body for perpetually failing to deliver proper services to the community. “We are being forced to pay for services we have never received. The village council just keeps on billing us without taking the economic situation of the people into consideration regarding poverty and unemployment in the village,” said Sophie Samuels on behalf of the community. She cited many shortcomings due to the council’s alleged inability to make development possible. “Why are plots so expensive in a small village such as Gibeon, not even proclaimed a town? Most of the inhabitants are unemployed and pensioners cannot afford to buy land nor houses, many of which don’t even have running water. “When does the village council intend installing pre-paid water meters in the houses,” she asked under great applause of the 300-strong predominantly female audience. The Namibian Police were also heavily criticized for alleged corrupt practices and selectively applying the law. “At present, the police charge people fuel fees for criminal investigations in the Gibeon area and they turn a blind eye to crime among the village youth. Many shebeens and clubs still operate illegally, all places at which many of our youth have been killed and maimed. The police do nothing about the curbing of drugs or alcohol. Dagga smoking has become a hobby among the youth and they abuse alcohol as if it was going out of fashion,” Samuels said, claiming that the situation is getting worse by the day. She further demanded the village council provide the community with an ambulance, a multi-purpose youth center and that the public sport stadium be upgraded. Sara Bock accused the village council of self-enrichment practices at the expense of the inhabitants. “It’s an undeniable fact that the communal farming industry of the south is the biggest in the provision of small stock, but the stock is bought by commercial farmers at auctions, claiming that they are the owners, instead of us the communal farmers. We do not have property rights nor can we afford to make bank loans to improve our infrastructure. We request the government to financially assist us,” said Sara Bock, supported by the audience through handclapping. “There exists a misconception that election promises will always ensure a victory to the ruling party, but what has our regional council done to consult the community in identifying development projects,” said Frances Basson, when she addressed the meeting on Monday at Mariental on behalf of the community. She emotionally charged that decisions are being taken by the regional council and are forced onto the population to benefit individuals in the council. “What programmes have the local authority implemented to ensure poverty eradication at local council level with reference to the skyrocketing prices of water, electricity, food and fuel to accommodate the poorest of the poor? “Electricity is now in the hands of a third party, making things very difficult for us, the consumers,” Basson told the delegation.