A Cry for Development

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By Surihe Gaomas RUNDU The inhabitants of Kavango are yearning for growth and have requested Government to urgently address their longstanding developmental needs. Topping the list of challenges is the deteriorating state of the over 150-kilometre gravel road from Rundu to Nkurenkuru. The potholed highway has been described as “terrible” for motorists. The Kahenge Road, as it is known, was one hot topic raised by the locals during the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Doreen Sioka’s visit to Kavango constituencies this week. “The road is deteriorating fast and cars are quickly becoming skoro-skoros (wrecks) because the road is just so bad,” said Councillor of the Kahenge Constituency Joseph Sikongo during an interview with New Era. He noted that he was pleased to hear that Government will repair the road, saying it has been a painful experience for many of the locals frequenting the gravel road. Although there have been no fatalities as a result of accidents, Sikongo said most taxis avoid the road because of its poor state. During the Deputy Speaker’s Outreach Programme visit of Parliament to Kahenge and Kapako constituencies on Monday, residents repeatedly raised concern about the road. “We have been talking about this problem many times in the past but nothing has changed,” said one angry man. “We feel that the Central Government has neglected our region in terms of road infrastructure – why do we have to wait for years,” asked another elderly man who expressed the fear that if the current situation prevails, residents might lose hope in the Government. Reassuring the Kavango residents, Deputy Speaker Sioka said that the road would be improved soon now that Government has conducted the long-awaited feasibility study with assistance from Japan. “We must have an understanding that everything will take time. That is why the Office of the Speaker is bringing Parliament to the people,” explained Sioka. At the same occasion former Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Moses Amweelo (MP) who is accompanying the Deputy Speaker on the two-week long outreach programme to the Kavango and Caprivi regions expressed the same sentiment. He explained that previously, Government had looked into the matter of rehabilitating the road from Rundu to Nkurenkuru but cost was the limiting factor. “This project is just awaiting implementation and getting money is a problem. The Namibian Government also received a soft loan from the Japanese Government and they have been here several times to look at the condition of the road,” explained Amweelo, noting that the road was “not economically viable”. For instance, one kilometer would cost Government one million dollars and renovation and construction of the country’s road infrastructure is a costly exercise. He reiterated that with additional financial assistance from Japan, the Government would rehabilitate the road to an acceptable standard. Amweelo also told his audience that Government has generally done a lot in terms of developing the country’s road network. For instance, the Trans-Caprivi Highway, the Kongola-Caprivi Bridge, the Rosh Pinah Road that’s currently under construction, the Rundu-Mururani Road and just recently the completion of the first phase of the Tsumeb-Ondangwa Railway line at a cost of over N$800-million. Other issues raised were the exorbitant bank charges, the urgent need for renovating schools in the region and Namibians being arrested and interrogated by the Angolan authorities in their migration across the border. “When you cross the border, the MPLA soldiers ask you what you are doing there and then arrest you for questioning or interrogation,” said one man. Another concern was the issuing of birth certificates as most of the residents especially orphans and vulnerable children do not have national documents. “Why is it easy to get a voting card when elections come, but not a birth certificate,” asked one woman, saying the issuing of birth certificates is a major problem in the Kavango Region. Meanwhile, the fully packed hall of the Kapako Tribal Office was also informed that rural electrification only reaches schools and churches while villagers’ homes are being left out. They also complained about the expensive process of drilling boreholes for poorer rural communities. “It’s high time that Parliament listens to our problems,” was the general feeling from the floor. The Deputy Speaker and her entourage promised to compile reports on all the challenges facing the region and to forward them to the relevant ministries for follow-up action.