By Petronella Sibeene
It used to be one of the country’s thriving towns. It attracted different businesses and they created job opportunities for the local people.
Slowly, the town started losing its economic grip and businesses one after another started shutting down, and in the process widening the unemployment gap.
The viability of the town then became questionable until it reached a stage where Otavi was degraded from being a town to a village.
Seventy-four-year-old Johannes Jordan, a resident of Otavi for 23 years, describes Otavi as having been one of the most beautiful towns Namibia ever had. He adds that big businesses thrived at the town and farmers recorded high production with the help of companies such as Meatco and Namib Mills.
But today, all that belongs to the past.
“Otavi has become stagnant. The buildings look ugly and nothing is being done. It will take years to fix,” he says.
Another resident who preferred to remain anonymous said after Namibia’s independence, the residents hoped that once apartheid was over they would enjoy the beauty of the town. To the contrary, the place has gone down and is no longer flourishing.
“We do not foresee anything good in the near future, all we need is a miracle,” says the over 30-year-old born and bred male source.
Shilungu says two years after the country’s independence, Otavi was a booming and promising town that was managed by the Swapo Party leadership.
In 1997, Party Otavi Resident Association (PORA) took over the reins and it was then that everything started crumbling. Within the seven years that PORA managed the affairs of the council, everything became chaotic.
“The town was not run the way it was supposed to. There was mismanagement at all levels. It was run by power-hungry people and system – people who had their own personal agendas,” says Shilungu.
There was no financial system in place and the council affairs were run on an ad hoc basis.
Big employers of the time such as Meatco closed, leaving about 250 residents unemployed. TransNamib and Namib Mills also trimmed their workforce and today the town grapples with an unemployment rate of 70 percent.
Efforts to Resuscitate Otavi
After council elections in 2004, Swapo Party leadership again claimed its position. Shilungu said the new management then embarked on an aggressive campaign aimed at restoring the town to its former glory.
“We looked at new ways in which we could have a properly managed council. Ways in which we could revive Otavi and make it regain its glory. We came up with a financial management system and we immediately filled the positions of an accountant and a CEO,” he says.
The council further engaged its staff members in refresher workshops. The Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development also stepped in by providing subsidies amounting to N$1.2 million.
The biggest challenge faced by the village council is how to get rid of the single quarters, Shilungu says. About 5??????’??