Darkness Almost Leads to Revolt


By Hoandi !Gaeb LAST minute negotiations between NamPower, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development and a local councillor averted a humanitarian crisis and a possible revolt by the community of Gibeon on Monday. The village, some 68 kilometres south of Mariental, had been without electricity for more than 20 days before NamPower agreed to reconnect it to the town on Monday, after intense negotiations with the Ministry. Yesterday, Councillor for the Gibeon Constituency, Karl Kisting, acknowledged that the people of Gibeon were not happy with the way the government handled the situation. Kisting said the entire government administration, including schools, had virtually come to a standstill and suffered during the more than 20-day electricity cut to the village. Kisting said negotiations are currently underway with NamPower to avert similar actions in the future, but there is no guarantee that NamPower will not cut off electricity again. “How do you explain to angry people when they say that the government is bailing out loss-making institutions, such as Air Namibia, TransNamib and so on, while basic services of people are cut off and the government seems not to be doing anything?” Kisting asked. He said the community was aware of the fact that the current problem of non-payment could be the result of mismanagement by government officials, but the electorate, those who have voted the present government into power, are the ones who suffer the most. He said the electricity cuts and subsequent humanitarian suffering at Gibeon and MaltahÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶he must serve as an eye-opener for the Hardap Regional Council to become more involved in the day-to-day administration of local authorities. “The regional council must set the pace that would be followed by others by providing technical and other support to local authorities,” he said. Kisting said the Gibeon Village Council has been without an accounting officer (village secretary) now for more than a year. All these factors could contribute to poor management, resulting in incidents such as the cut-off of electricity. He noted that urgent steps are needed by all stakeholders (the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development and the Hardap Regional Council) to immediately engage in serious negotiations with NamWater as both Gibeon and MaltahÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶he are in arrears with their water bills. “If NamWater cuts off water, we may face even bigger humanitarian crises at the two towns,” he said. Both towns owe NamWater in excess of N$300 000. Kisting said the smooth running of the village of MaltahÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶he is vital as it is an important part of Namibia’s tourism activities in the south. The town uses electricity to pump and supply water to the town’s residents and other tourism institutions. Bulk supply of water and electricity to these towns should not be considered by Government as luxuries, but as integral parts of tourism and the livelihood of the people in the area. Kisting said the situation at Gibeon and MaltahÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶he would be aggravated if water and electricity were cut off in future due to non-payment. People cannot even go into the veld and collect wood as they need permits to do so. How will they be able to generate energy if electricity is being cut off and the offices are closed when they want to get permits for collecting wood?, he asked. The Gibeon councillor expressed the hope that NamPower and NamWater would act with restraint in future before cutting off services as the villages have been doing business with them since independence. “We cannot allow our children to study at night through candles as they can be very dangerous,” he said, adding that he was afraid that negotiations with NamPower and NamWater might fail and that electricity cuts may occur during the examinations for final year students. Kisting thanked the community of Gibeon for being patient during the last three weeks. Electricity was re-connected on Monday. Earlier the Governor of the Hardap Region, Katrina Hanse, urged local authorities in the region to apply financial discipline and to avoid financial mismanagement in order to deliver the required services to the communities in their respective areas.