Okahandja mayor unmoved by criticism

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By Magreth Nunuhe

WINDHOEK – The Mayor of Okahandja, Valerie Aron, says she can see the town is moving forward in terms of development and will not be unsettled by individuals with political and tribal agendas who are merely fighting for positions.

“We are planning the way forward for the development of the town. We welcome constructive criticism, but people should also give credit where it’s due,” said Aron, adding there is now much difference in terms of growth in the town, very much more than before.
Aron made these remarks amid unrest at the town where hundreds of residents marched to the town council offices on Monday, demanding the dismissal of the whole council and heads of municipal departments as they have allegedly been ‘stealing’ from the community unabatedly by selling land to those they favour.

She says that due to financial difficulties they cannot resolve all problems at the same time and feels some demands the residents are making are unwarranted.

Aron acknowledges there are problems in Okahandja but she says political and tribal differences are coming in the way, as some residents have apparently been pointing fingers at her saying she is from Owamboland and has no business in the town.

She said the group of protesters who gathered in front of the local authority premises on Monday demanding her removal were mainly United Democratic Front (UDF) members and did not represent the majority of residents.

Aron made a scathing attack on regional councillor, Steve Biko Booys, whom she alleged was instigating the demonstrators against her.
She claimed the protesters were holding regular meetings at Booys’s office and that on the day of the protest they asked the latter to accept the petition on behalf of government.

“How can he be the player and the referee?” she asked. She alleged Booys was not neutral on the matter.

She further alleges Booys applied to the municipality for an erf and got one, but no one talks about it, while other councillors are being singled out for all sorts of attacks.

“We are not a unique town. Other towns also have own problems,” she stressed, adding that all councillors were being accused left, right and centre, but those making the accusations were not putting the facts on the table and were just being emotional.

Protesters blamed the municipality for giving alleged preferential treatment to well-known developer, Dr Thomas Ihuhua, and demanded that they also pay N$13.91 per square metre that the municipality approved for Ihuhua’s company, Tura Properties.

Aron dismissed the allegations, saying many people cannot differentiate between provision of serviced and unserviced land, as in the latter case where the developer serviced the land.

Booys hit back, questioning what political position he was vying for as to his knowledge there is no separate election in Okahandja.
He said the issues raised by the community have nothing to do with him wanting her out of the position of mayor.

“The petition addresses issues of alleged corruption, misuse of power, land and non-service delivery, where do I come into the context?” he asked.

He said people from different political parties come to his office all the time looking for advice and while many are Swapo members, it is not the point, as he does not need to ask for permission to address them.

Booys said the mayor keeps blaming everyone besides her own leadership and should question why she is the one whom the residents march against every time.

“My colleagues must stop shifting blame, become mature and not use emotional rhetoric because of their shortcomings,” he added.
The regional councillor said some councillors have become alien to the duties they are supposed to perform and rather run to the police every day to make cases against each other.

On the tribal allegations, Booys said he was not spokesperson for the demonstrators but noticed that many of the protesters were residents of Five Rand and Oshetu, who happen to be predominantly Oshiwambo-speaking.

“Why do we play the tribal card when we fail to administer the mandate?” asked Booys. He further stated Aron was not even there to receive the petition, but perhaps because she felt it was the wrong tribal group she failed to pitch up.

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