New Era journalist Anna Ingwafa Recently had an interview with the mayor of Oshakati Katrina Shimbuli on various issues.
NE: What are the problems that the town is facing as a result of the floods?
KS: The town has suffered economically, socially and emotionally. It is economical because a lot of people lost their properties as a result of floods. Shops and businesses have closed and people lost their income. The town’s revenue is no different because people who dwelled in the affected areas could no longer pay for their municipal services of water and electricity and that means a big loss. Our people have suffered emotionally because the current situation of living in tents is very stressful – people were used to having their privacy and where they are staying at the moment, there is none.
NE: Can you tell us what the town council’s long-term development plans are?
KS: All the affected people who settled in low-level areas need to be relocated to safer places in order for the council to re-plan the flooded areas. A proper combined feasibility study has to be carried out by the following stakeholders (the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural development, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Oshana Regional Council and Oshakati Town Council. The feasibility study will be conducted for all the northern towns, villages and new towns to be proclaimed in future. The government has to make long-term budgetary provision to address the problem, which will compensate people who will give up their land, and plan for flooded areas, surveying of the flooded areas. Because of the financial constraints the council cannot finance the above-mentioned activities alone.
NE: What are the challenges to these long term-development plans?
KS: Provision of services will remain the biggest challenge to the council for many years to come. Council alone cannot do these challenges without assistance from the central government. The influx of people from the rural areas to town is another challenge which puts pressure on municipal services and infrastructure. Traditional authorities or homestead owners living in town lands are still allocating portions of land to individual people which is in conflict with the Local Authority Act. And lastly, financial constraints seriously hamper service delivery. Council is really trying its best with the little it has to provide such services.
NE: How have the floods affected investments and what’s the way forward in this regard?
KS: When we talk of investments, some people only consider money investments. Here we are talking about property and infrastructure investments. Yes, property and infrastructure investments are severely affected by the floods. Business owners have closed their businesses and lost income. These are difficult situations for property owners and residents of Oshakati. However, floods are natural, unfortunately. We just have to find ways and means on how to build up confidence in our local economic development as well as to avoid similar situations in the future.
NE: Don’t you think investors will be scared following the floods?
KS: I am positive and trust that investors’ confidence will still be with and in Oshakati, taking into account the fact that all of us (residents, business communities, the council and the national government) try to find solutions to the flood challenges in future.
NE: And can you tell us what sort of investment opportunities are available here?
KS: Oshakati is blessed with buying power. The population is growing every day. Business opportunities like housing construction, roads development, water and sewerage development, property investment, SMEs etc., we are about to engage ourselves and develop new residential extensions, Oshakati North (Ehenye), and re-organizing Oshakati especially low and flooded areas, etc. – needless to mention, the spin-off effects are quite
NE: What are the other major developments that are planned?
KS: Some of the major developments are construction of New Open Market, tarring of a road to Coca Cola from Okatana main road, tarring of a road from Sam Nujoma Road eastwards and joining Ongwediva-Oshakati main road, planning of high-income residential areas, provision of municipal services to existing areas, such as water and sewerage development.
NE: What future remedial plans does the town council have in place in case of any floods in the foreseeable future?
KS: It is unfortunate that there is a great need of open land in Oshakati that can be utilized without reclaiming it first from inhabitants. The idea is to create and develop a better land that is not likely to be flooded like the way the situation is now. As we all know that land is nowhere to be found to fit over 4 000 households without making the homesteads give away to such massive developments. Areas like Oneshila and many informal areas of Oshakati need proper planning that will create a more conducive economic climate.
One has to take note that all these need a lot of money that a town council like ours cannot do on its own. We are appealing for assistance from our development partners.
NE: The town council faces all sorts of accusations, particularly that Oshakati is dirty and animals are running freely in town. What is your comment on that?
KS: Efforts have been made to make sure that Oshakati town is clean. At the moment there are thirteen contractual labourers contracted on a yearly basis to make sure that Oshakati is clean. They have been selected from their own localities and the town council spent almost N$95 000 per month.
Furthermore, we urge the entire public to adhere to the health and regulations not to dump their refuse anywhere. There are bins provided and the public has been urged to make use of those big bins provided and not to garbage anywhere. About animals, impounding regulations have been in force since 1996. Animals that roam the streets are impounded. The public are requested not to come to town and graze their animals because these animals cause a lot of accidents and they destroy people’s properties.
NE: Another accusation is that the town does not have any drainage system in place. What are your plans in addressing this problem?
KS: It is true that our town does not have storm water drainage. The council is faced with many challenges including drainage. If you look at the topography of Oshakati, you clearly see that the town is just a small island. That island has more people than it can take. Therefore, some people decided to settle on unplanned land. The council is trying to fix the drainage problem though the budget is quite limited at this point in time. For instance, we intend to approach the government to assist with the mobilization of funds to re-organize Oshakati town and develop the necessary infrastructure that should cater for drainage systems, thus avoiding flooding of residential and businesses in future.
NE: The state of roads and other infrastructure is pathetic. How is the council addressing this?
KS: In such situation, roads of all nature being main district or villages are all affected. In a dry country like ours, roads are not necessarily designed to resist a condition of this degree. During floods and rain, one cannot repair roads and keep them intact. Therefore, only few periodic minor repairs are taking place. It is true that one cannot say we have the best road infrastructure in the country but we are working on that. Roads like the one in front of Coca Cola was supposed to be repaired by this time but because of the rain the contractor could not make progress.
NE: Cholera seems to be a major health concern due to the floods. What is being done to address this problem?
KS: Health education has been given to the entire public to adhere to the following at all times: Wash their hands with soap after using a toilet or before preparing food. Cover their food items property especially the cooked food. Drink boiled water or used purification powder to purify unsafe water. We urge them to cook food thoroughly especially the fish that the public are catching from flood water.
NE: Any other information that you would like to share with us?
We as councillors took a trip to Katima Mulilo (where there is the best open market in Namibia) and we are now ready to build our new open market just behind Etango Shopping Complex. People have been attacking us in Open Line, saying that we are unfair by putting them together in Omatala but the reason behind this is that we need to know the exact number of people so that when we build the new open market, everyone will have a place. The land is already serviced and work is expected to start next month.