Rural Areas Hungry for Growth

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By Surihe Gaomas RUNDU Speeding up the decentralization process in the rural areas is one of the solutions to the numerous socio-economic development challenges facing the country. This is the view of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Doreen Sioka who concluded a two-week Outreach Programme to the Kavango and Caprivi regions recently. Developmental needs cited by officials from the two regions ranged from a shortage of clean drinking water, lack of electricity, the absence of health facilities, lack of birth certificates and national identification documents to the apparent bad conditions of gravel roads in most of the constituencies. “It’s now up to the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development to enhance decentralization, then everything else will be solved. People should be very patient because decentralization is already on the ground, but it is only the lack of resources that’s hampering us,” explained Sioka in an interview shortly after the end of her visit. She added there is a dire need to bring service delivery closer to the people for development to take place and at the same time ensure that the country’s developmental goal of Vision 2030 is achieved. The visit, that started in the Kavango Region and concluded in Caprivi, was geared towards bringing parliament closer to be the people, while highlighting the challenges of development especially in far remote areas. During the two-week long excursion, members of parliament Dr Moses Amweelo and Nudo Party MP Asser Mbai accompanied the Deputy Speaker. The rest of the entourage included six officials from the ministries of Agriculture Water and Forestry; Home Affairs and Immigration; and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare. During community meetings it became apparent that while development may have reached some parts of the two regions, other constituencies are in dire need of service delivery. For instance, in the Kavango Region, inhabitants of the Rundu Rural West Constituency never raised a single question about development in their area while their Councillor Herbert Shixwameni commended government for bringing services closer to the people over the past 16 years. “People are complaining about no development in the Kavango Region. But in this constituency while there was no electricity before in the interior, after independence development came. Before, there was just bush and today we are sitting in offices of the Swapo Party government,” explained Shixwameni, adding that development is possible once there are healthy relations between the regional, local and national leadership. The Rundu Rural West Constituency was the first to bring rural electricity 60 kilometres from the town of Rundu. However, three other villagers are still waiting for the same service. Yet, some inhabitants of both the Kavango and Caprivi complain of the slow pace of development 16 years after independence. “The roads are very bad and this blocks tourism to come to us rural people – we want our roads tarred,” were some of the concerns raised during the community meetings. Others felt that government has forgotten about them and with the lack of basic human needs like clean drinking water, lack of ID’s and birth certificates and deteriorating hotel infrastructure – many feel frustrated. “Politicians only come to us when they want votes during election time but never attend to our needs,” said one resident. In a flood-plain area like the Kabbe Constituency in the Caprivi Region, Councillor Peter Mwala said there was an urgent need for transportation along the river especially during the flooding season. “People have difficulty in moving when its flooding and river transport is the solution or the ‘harvesting’ of flood water,” said Mwala. However, Sioka reassured residents that development will take time and that patience was required. “All that’s needed is tolerance and patience. There’s nobody being denied any share from the government’s cake,” stressed Sioka, adding that parliamentarians do visit the regions they are assigned to, but they all don’t conduct these visits at the same time due to national commitments in parliament. She insisted that development was forthcoming and that Namibians have the right to cry on government’s shoulders. “The Germans ruled Namibia for 32 years and South Africa for another 75 years. But our own government has ruled this country for only 16 years, so we cannot expect everything to come at a blink of an eye,” said Sioka. The latest Outreach Programme to the Caprivi and Kavango regions by the Deputy Speaker follows one to the Karas and Hardap regions by National Assembly Speaker Dr Theo Ben Gurirab last month. A comprehensive report is expected to be compiled after which it would be discussed in parliament.