By Reagan Malumo
Governor of the Caprivi Region, Leonard Mwilima, whose election to the position was mired in controversy, has promised to bring change to the region.
Until recently, the region has been without a governor and the Swapo Party has since reluctantly accepted Mwilima’s election.
Now that the political impasse has been broken, Mwilima promises to take the region to new heights in terms of development.
Unlike his predecessors, he says, he will lift the region from abject poverty and strive for prosperity.
Many people feel the region is limping mainly due to tribalism and short-sighted politics by some individuals.
Some locals feel the new leadership should first tackle issues of tribalism that continue to drag the region backward in order for the region to change.
“We are fed up with tribalism while nothing is being done in terms of development,” said one community activist. The activist stated that the region has high unemployment levels, development is limited while poverty is widespread, mainly because of tribalism.
When New Era caught up with 37-year-old Mwilima to ask for his views and how he plans to tackle these problems, he said he intends to bring about radical economic change to the region.
“First and foremost, I feel it’s an honour. I feel I have to live up to the trust and confidence the people have shown in me because it’s an honour,” he said.
Mwilima, who has officially assumed duty, identified poverty reduction, elimination of unemployment and the fight against the HIV/Aids pandemic as some of the priority areas on his agenda. Mwilima said he intended to approach these problems through collective leadership using the ruling Swapo Party election manifesto and the regional council mandate.
He said even though the region once drafted a regional strategic plan, the focus was lost and he wondered whether the residents of the region even knew about it as there were no consultations.
“One of the first things I will do is to go back to our people and consult. Look at our road networks and the infrastructure, it means something must be done. I need to start with consultative meetings with stakeholders, because as leaders we need to be accountable to the community we serve,” he said.
He said the region needs a leader of his calibre to overcome its problems.
He assured the people of the Caprivi to count on him because he is accessible and has an open-door policy.
“I consult and make sure decisions are taken and people will make choices themselves. I don’t think I have an attitude of looking down at a common man on the street, we must be able to mingle,” he said, adding that he also intends to close the gap between the leaders and the people.
Mwilima said for the past 18 years, Caprivians have been speaking about the potential of the region due to its strategic location and that it can be a food basket but nothing so far has been done apart from mere talk.
He said most of the people think that some projects are hindered by tribalism but in actual fact, people ought to have a common understanding. He cited the Liambezi Sugar Plantation and the green scheme as some of the major projects that could help bring about development to the region.
“As long as people feel that they are part of the process there will be change. Action speaks louder than words, so I will not always stay in this office, I will be busy visiting everybody,” he promised.
He promised to turn the Zambezi Vocational Training Centre into an institution that will contribute to the economic development of the region.
He said as governor, he would ensure that every foreign investor who comes to the region puts up buildings of modern international standard to attract more tourists. He said he prefers to see more manufacturing companies because they create jobs.
Mwilima said he is happy that Bukalo is fast-becoming an aspiring second town in Caprivi and called on the people of Bukalo to start Build Together houses. Apart from Bukalo, other areas that are soon to be turned into settlements according to the regional council development plan are Ngoma, Chinchimane and Sibbinda.
Despite Mwilima’ eagerness to develop the region and to end tribalism, some people doubt his capabilities. They argue that if Mwilima has nothing to do with tribalism, he and other councillors would not have argued that drought relief food goes to the Masubiya tribe during floods but not to the Mafwe people.
In response, Mwilima said he would do everything to fight tribalism in the region.
“I am a governor for Caprivi and that means I am a governor for every tribe. Everyone has his own tribe, I am a Mafwe and my chief is Mamili, but it is wrong if I use my tribe to suppress other people,” said Mwilima.
He said his first task would be to visit traditional leaders. Mwilima said there is nothing wrong with the tribal leaders in the region. The problem in the region lies with people who think that they are highly educated and can influence traditional leaders left, right and centre, only to stir up tension. He swore that as long as he is governor, his office will not tolerate that.