By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
Darkness descended over the settlement of Onderombapa in the Aminuis Constituency yesterday when NamPower disconnected the power supply line to the settlement leaving only the local clinic.
Aminuis Constituency Councillor, Ervin Uanguta, confirmed the disconnection of Onderombapa. He said in terms of the agreement between NamPower and the Omaheke Regional Council (ORC), the council was not responsible for the supply of power to undeclared settlements and that this is the responsibility of the Ministry of Mines and Energy. However, the Ministry of Mines and Energy has apparently been reluctant to shoulder this responsibility. In this regard, the ORC has decided to withdraw the supply of power to undeclared settlements.
New Era is aware of an ORC communication in May to the Electricity Control Board (ECB) notifying it of its intention to return the power supply licence on the supply of electricity to undeclared settlements in the region. The notice was to come into effect within three months from the writing of the notice, which is dated May 6.
That means the return of the licence would be in effect early August. The ORC has also been concerned about the matter for some time that it had even sought audience with President Hifikepunye Pohamba to bring the matter to his attention. The audience has not yet been granted.
The affected undeclared settlements are Netso and Tjaka/Ben Hur in the Kalahari Constituency; Drimiopsis in the Gobabis Constituency; Epukiro RC in the Steinhaussen Constituency; Onderombapa in the Aminuis Constituency; Rietfontein and Lister in the Otjombinde Constituency and Okovimburu, Kalkpan and Okombomi in the Epukiro Constituency.
The ORC apparently is not capable, financially and technically, to keep up the supply of electricity to its undeclared settlements, hence the decision to return the licence to the ECB.
NamPower’s Marketing and Communications Manager, John Kaimu, has confirmed the disconnection on Monday due to non-payment by Drimiopsis, Netso, points 2 and 3 in Onderombapa, leaving point one on because of the clinic.
New Era is informed of the long-running tussle pitting the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, the Ministry of Mines and Energy and NamPower, as to who is responsible for the supply of power to undeclared settlements in the Omaheke Region.
The issue has even been blamed for the slow process of electrifying the settlements in the region.
However, in response to questions that New Era recently forwarded to the Ministry of Mines and Energy on the progress that has been made regarding rural electrification, the ministry denied any tussle and that it may have been responsible for any delay in taking electricity to rural Omaheke.
“When the rural electrification projects were started, it was agreed that the Ministry of Mines and Energy will be responsible for rural building wiring and installation of low voltage reticulation network within the beneficiary villages; whereas NamPower was responsible for connection of these newly reticulated villages to the existing national electricity grid through construction of medium voltage power lines. With the creation of the Regional Electricity Distributors (REDs), NamPower pulled out of that arrangement for areas in which REDs are already operational.
This left the energy ministry to take up both the low and medium voltage components of rural electrification. NamPower is, however, still participating in rural electrification projects through acquiring grant funds from the European Investment Bank to finance electrification projects in villages with high economic indicators such a “positive net present value”, the ministry clarified.
“The only contribution of the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development towards rural electrification is by entering into power supply agreements with NamPower through its respective regional councils and cocal authorities,” it added.
“That is not very true. Projects still continue to be implemented, though there are difficulties between Omaheke Regional Council and NamPower to enter into a power supply agreement for the villages were the construction and installation of electrification infrastructure was completed in that region.
As a result, the inhabitants of these villages still do not use electricity although the installation of electricity infrastructure was fully completed.
The responsibility of the energy ministry ends at the installation of the infrastructure which we then handover/donate to REDs or local authorities to own and operate.
Entering into a power supply agreement with NamPower is the responsibility of Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development through its respective local authorities. It is often the lack of this power supply agreement which often denies rural inhabitants in some areas to fully enjoy the benefits of the Ministry of Mines and Energy rural electrification projects.”
Kaimu had this to say regarding NamPower’s role in the supply of electricity to rural areas.
“Before the commissioning, a power supply agreement has to be signed between NamPower and the regional council. This agreement stipulates among others the charges (such as rental and extension charges) besides the consumption part, which will be paid by the consumer himself or herself.
From NamPower’s side – these agreements were sent to the regional council (some few years ago) to sign and they are not signed hence the delay.”