By Chrispin Inambao
New Era (NE) recently interviewed Katima Mulilo Town Mayor, John Likando, on a wide range of issues regarding development at the northeastern town.
NE: Can you tell us what the town council’s long-term developmental plans are and where you would like to see Katima Mulilo, say, five years from now?
Likando: Thank you very much for having granted me this opportunity. As social partners we need this. First, we have developed a strategic plan that will be concurrently implemented which should also be finalised soon.
We held workshops with suburban leaders, suburb chairpersons we have also managed to hold a town development forum, which comprises of heads of departments, representatives of political parties, women and youth for the past two years. So based on these workshops and forum we formulated needs and desirability which can sustain the development of the town. This is where we prioritise our activities and programmes for implementation purposes
NE: I see you now have a new shopping mall. What was this investment worth and what are some of the major outlets that have set up shop here?
Likando: The complex is in the range of over N$30 million. There are several retail stores. One of the major ones appreciated by the people is the opening of Pick ‘n Pay, the expanded Bank Windhoek, which has a massive banking hall, MTC, Street House, also Nedbank on the new complex and numerous outfit stores. There are still vacant offices because it is a two-story building. I have personally persuaded service providers such as lawyers but they haven’t taken a decision yet, but they have got keen interest.
NE: What are the other major developments that are on the drawing board and we are talking about what sort of developmental projects?
Likando: With the completion of the bridge already set up and the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) people should take advantage of cross border trade. Under the EPZ regime there are several incentives and other schemes and our country Namibia as a member of SACU and SADC there are several trade preferences that can benefit potential and existing investors including the business community.
The strategic location of Katima Mulilo should be seen as a major advantage because it is the only town in Namibia if not in the world where five countries converge. Basically we take advantage we are the main suppliers of the next towns it takes the people of Sesheke, the rural towns of Angola depend for their daily needs on Katima. Towns within a 300 km radius in Zambia where there are no filling stations, butcheries and there is an influx from Zimbabwe and Botswana they all depend on Katima and our money is legal tender in these countries. On a daily basis we have 400 visitors from these countries. Shoppers from Botswana take advantage of the favourable exchange rate. The influx from Zimbabwe is massive because we are the entry point. Zambians go mainly for groceries and cheaper fuel. They also buy South African rand and US dollars. They mainly trade in chitenge, agricultural products such as groundnuts, beans and traditional herbs.
NE: Currently, there is the waterfront tourism project. How does this tie into your development plans?
Likando: Basically we are partners in the whole project first and foremost we donated land, which is worth millions of dollars. Secondly we have a board member representing the town council. It is a public/private partnership initiative.
NE: And can you tell us what sort of investment opportunities are available here?
Likando: In terms of public/private partnership the Government has also availed funds for some of the infrastructural developments, like administration, electricity network, and the planning setup even operational costs are funded by Government, paying Board Members and staff so we are all involved.
NE: The town council faces all sorts of accusations particularly that it is ineffective and that it lags behind other towns in terms of development because councilors are generally viewed as preoccupying themselves with trial issues. What is your comment on that?
Likando: Generally, Namibians are good at criticism, which I view as constructive. But at times we always preoccupy ourselves with personal issues politicising if not trivialising issues. I view Caprivi as one of the unrealistic and fabrication zones they make comparisons which are unrealistic all that I expect they criticise the good and the bad. The bad should be criticised and the good should be given merit. Ironically you cannot discuss development where there is no unity.
There is disunity among the population and not the leadership in the region. Basically it’s something we inherited from our colonial masters and it needs to be healed. One of my core objectives when I took over the reign is to maintain peace and stability to an extent if you look at young people they can understand the badness of disunity. My concern is for the older generation to come together to sort out their inherited differences. That is when we can talk of development.
NE: The state of roads and other infrastructure is pathetic. How is the Council addressing this?
Likando: One of our priorities is the issue of roads the situation is bad it’s a question of financial capacity I concur with you, the situation is very bad at the town. We are trying as a council to create more sources of revenue, which will give a burden to our residents for the services, which they cannot afford now. Negotiations are under way with various partners who we gave our plans to assist where they can we are waiting for their positive response. And these are the Central Government, the Ministry of Regional (and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development), council and international development partners including the business community.
We have developed a road network master plan, which will prioritise the area according to availability of financial resources and this will depend on the outcome from what we have.
NE: Are Chinese one of the major investors in the retail sector and who are the other players?
Likando: Let us differentiate between a businessman and an investor. An investor is a person who is there to settle, while a businessman can be a fly-by-night and a person who can leave immediately he breaks even or immediately he makes a profit.
NE: Any other information you would like to share with us.
Likando: Generally, people should not perceive investors as foreigners only.
Local people have a role to play and I regard them as permanent investors.
They must come to the local authority and financial institutions because we are now working in tandem than going for fancy luxury life and liabilities such as cars. From a political perspective, we don’t physically do the investment other than to create an environment viable and stable so that investors can be attracted to the area. So, the community should assist us in bringing peace stability and sustainability through community meetings, suburb meetings, business forums and intellectual debate. With that we can build. And our town can grow higher and above.
In conclusion, there are other investment packages which are derailing development of the town too numerous to mention the power crisis, and the issue of poverty and HIV/Aids puts the region on a negative map. We need to really work hard as Namibians to meet our goals that is NDP3 and Vision 2030 and the Swapo Party 2004 Manifesto.
My advice is all leaders should be accessible to the community. We should avoid too much protocol and formalities, lets open our offices twenty (24) hours, seven days a week, four weeks a month and we will achieve our objectives.