By Engel Nawatiseb
The Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development has been asked to constantly monitor the performances of downgraded towns, and to upgrade villages that have improved on their poor performances.
The Manager of the City of Mangaung in South Africa, Nepo Mathizela, expressed outrage at the “village” status of the Otavi Village Council, noting that the village should be marketed as a town considering its asset and infrastructural base.
“Something is wrong here. Villages in the African context do not boast of tarred roads … telephones, but indeed Otavi has a central business area. Otavi must be marketed as a town. In fact, we should use terms that will entice people to come and invest here,” he noted.
Mathizela, accompanied by Chief Operating Officer of Mangaung, Kopimpe Mcejwa, returned to South Africa last week after paying a weeklong reciprocal visit to Otavi. This followed a recent twinning agreement between Otavi and Mangaung signed in Bloemfontein, aimed at establishing and strengthening ties between the two.
According to Mathizela and Mcejwa, Otavi residents are committed to developing the village despite the significant socio-economic challenges facing it.
“We certainly respect the background that prompted the downgrading of the town, but also without disrespecting the legal position and laws of government (Namibia), Otavi boasts great potential of growth and no longer deserves ‘village’ status.”
Mathizela stressed that the current status of Otavi could scare off foreign twinning partners and investors from forming links with the village.
“Whether it is a village, where cattle are roaming the streets, we were still going to come because we have full understanding of the African agenda, but others from (Europe) would have declined. Let us therefore rethink the grading of towns in our African set-up in order to encourage exceptional performance and good governance,” added Mathizela.
The duo observed that the village has positioned itself as a destination of choice with the recent discovery of a potential gold mine in the area.
“We met people across the board – religious, business, education and agriculturalists – and all are positive and willing to develop this place to capitalize on its maximum potential.
Mind you me, here are boggling opportunities to supply various needs of the gold mine such as fuel, oil and equipment, to mention but the tip of the iceberg,” noted Mcejwa.
The two local authorities will cooperate in many areas including sport, culture, capacity building and business exchanges, amongst others.
The visitors told New Era that the immediate priorities of twinning would entail the provision of engineering services, tarring of roads, technical support, infrastructural development and advice on the financial management of the village council.
“Our focus will be on all planning aspects in terms of design, costing, training and maintenance of assets. We also observed that the village fleet is not operational and that a lot of equipment such as suction tanks require refurbishment,” said Mcejwa.
He added that a cost-benefit analysis needs to be done as soon as possible to bring the fleet to operational levels in order to avoid the hiring of expertise and machinery such as compressors and fire-brigade tools, so that the rendering of basic services to the community is not interrupted.
The council is reportedly spending huge sums of money on hiring private contractors to deliver some services which are beyond its capacity due to technical and mechanical “bottlenecks”.
Otavi Village Secretary,Joshua Shilungu, told New Era that the twinning arrangement with Mangaung is a meaningful partnership that is geared towards assisting Otavi in its drive to become a competitive partner in good