By Catherine Sasman
A welcome thick cloud cover accompanied by intermittent light drizzles provided welcome reprieve to an estimated 7 000-strong crowd that thronged the Independence Stadium in Windhoek to celebrate Namibia’s 17th year of Independence with their political leaders.
Gathered on the podium were Khomas regional councillors, leaders from traditional councils and the church fraternity, as well as members of the diplomatic corps.
The day was marked by congratulatory contemplation of Namibia’s long road to political freedom and achievements as a new unified nation.
Cultural and youth groups participated in the festivities with colourful performances to the delight of the expectant crowd. The celebrations continued until 10 last night, with police and paramedics on standby throughout. On the parameters of the celebrations, business was booming for small food and drink traders. Away from the crowds at the stadium the mood in Windhoek was more sedate, with empty roads for the most part.
Addressing the crowd on behalf of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development John Pandeni reiterated the government’s priorities of providing social amenities to all citizens of the country, as well as promoting economic growth while fighting poverty. Also of importance to the government, he said, was the expansion of the physical and communications infrastructure, and the need to address landlessness, while ensuring the safety and security situation in the country.
“We must all take pride in the fact that since the attainment of our independence, our democracy has steadily grown deep and firm roots,” read Pandeni.
Khomas regional governor Sophia Shaningwa said in her address that the council was committed to uprooting poverty by striving to consolidate the gains and inroads registered in key sectors of the economy.
“At the beginning of 2006, we reassured and recommitted ourselves to our mandate to plan and manage the development of our region in the most pragmatic, prudent, effective and efficient manner. And as we celebrate another year of independence, that reassurance and commitment is today much more challenging than ever before,” said the governor.
Upbeat about the developments in the region, Shaningwa enumerated strides made by the regional council.
From public sector investment alone, she said, the Khomas Region has taken the largest allocation of N$747 882 000 with an average of 30.7% of the total national allocation. This, she added, would translate into an approximate 135 investment projects implemented.
“Coupled with equally heavy private investments in the regional economy, this continues to make our region the provider of best municipal infrastructure, high standard quality education, health and institutional networks and developed industrial and economic sectors,” boasted Shaningwa.
The region, which now constitutes 15% (300 000) of the country’s population, absorbs over 92% of the national rural-urban and external migration, putting extreme pressure on municipal service delivery.
Last year’s economic performance, went on Shaningwa, was not good enough to alleviate unemployment and create sizable jobs.
“This social problem continues to be a serious one in our region,” she acknowledged, calling upon the business sector to create an expanded and diversified regional economy.
Shaningwa added that the decentralised process is a “critical precondition for effective regional development planning”.
“In the case of the Khomas Region, I would say that a lack or slow pace of decentralization spells very negative consequences for the Regional Council.
From the review of our performance, it becomes evident that much of our under-performance is always attributed to insufficient financial and human resources,” she said, adding that the region has been declared ready to take over decentralized functions from the central government.