It is just past nine on a Tuesday morning in the relatively busy town of Opuwo. Everyone is going about their own businesses and there is some construction going on amid the hustle and bustle.
It is not uncommon to see dusty cars, with the exception of a few polished ones. In fact, the entire north-western town is covered in a cloud of dust. Despite this, the people do not seem too disturbed by all the dust, as to them it is probably a common occurrence that they have learned to live with.
“Five years from now the face of Opuwo will change for the better,” remarked a middle-aged woman, who was approached by New Era. She did not want to be named, but said she is happy with the developments taking place at the town, despite the bad roads that many complain about.
The woman, a cleaner in one of the government offices at the town, was born and bred in Opuwo and has seen the transformation of the place, now the administrative hub of the Kunene Region. “So much has changed. We even have nice buildings,” she pointed out.
But another Opuwo resident, Ueutjerevi Ngunaihe, is not impressed at all with the pace of development. He feels development at the town is very slow and unsatisfactory.
“My concern is that it is difficult for people with small businesses to be allocated plots for their businesses. The ones who get [land] are the well-off and the rental prices are too high, so people end up selling their things in front of other people’s shops,” Ngunaihe adds.
Regarding the state of the roads, he agrees that the roads are very bad and that it hampers the development of the town.
“We don’t have roads. It takes up to three hours to drive to a destination 60 kilometres away. Patients who need urgent healthcare in the villages are transferred to Opuwo, but often do not access medical care on time, because of the delays caused by the bad roads,” Ngunaihe said, adding that the condition of the roads requires urgent attention.
Furthermore, he said many people fear driving their cars on gravel roads and the hard terrain.
“The problem is not necessarily the gravel roads. We are more concerned with the hard terrain and the fact that even the gravel roads are not serviced. The terrain is bad for our cars and even delays people and service delivery in so many ways,” a vocal Ngunaihe commented.
There are only two tarred roads at the town, namely the main road Dr Sam Nujoma Avenue, and Mbumbijazo Muharukua Street, which many do not consider to be a “proper tarred road”.
The poor condition of roads at the town is a hindrance to the development of the town, local leaders admit. “The road network is bad,” says Kazeongere Tjeundo, Opuwo Constituency Councilor. The constituency is divided into Opuwo Urban and Opuwo Rural and Tjeundo represents both.
Tjeundo explained that the hard and mountainous terrain makes it very difficult for government services to reach communities, especially in rural areas of the constituency. “It is difficult to effectively take government services to the communities with our types of roads,” he noted. Echoing Ngunaihe’s sentiments Tjeundo said it is difficult for people living in the rural areas to access services such as healthcare. During the dry season the roads are bad, but the situation is not any better when it rains, he notes.
“In some places there are no proper roads,” Tjeundo explained. “Development is compromised in the region. In Opuwo Rural for example, there are some places where cars cannot even drive when it rains.”
Alphons Tjitombo, the CEO of Opuwo Town Council said the council yearly receives between N$450 000 to N$470 000 from the Road Fund Administration to maintain its roads.
This year, as part of the maintenance of roads the town council did minor upgrades in front of the shops at the town.
“We have requested N$15 million from central government to upgrade the roads from gravel to tarred roads,” Tjitomba said, adding that “the bad roads at the town reduce the quality of life of local residents.”
Opuwo Constituency has about 27 272 inhabitants, according to the 2011 Housing and Population census report.