Kunene the biggest battlefield

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Opuwo

The scramble for political control of the Kunene in the 2015 regional council and local authority elections is in full swing.

Around 51 564 registered voters will decide tomorrow whom they want as their regional political leaders for the next five years.
Six parties, Nudo, the DTA of Namibia, Swapo Party, the United Democratic Front (UDP), All People’s Party (APP) and the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), have all stepped up their campaigns in the battle for the seats on offer.

An independent candidate is also contesting one of the constituencies (Outjo), while APP is only contesting the local authority election in Kamanjab.

Swapo’s Uapenduka Mupya, Ueutjerevi Ngunaihe (DTA) and Nudo’s Irende Kavari will challenge each other to become the councilor of Opuwo Urban, home to the region’s administrative hub, Opuwo. The constituency is currently in the hands of the official opposition, the DTA of Namibia.

An internal compilation of the outcome of Monday’s special elections in Kunene indicates that Swapo is leading the pack when it comes to votes counted in the special elections held for police officers and poll officials.
The ruling party scored 327 of the 591 votes cast, followed by the UDF (159), DTA (83), Koos Mazenge (Independent candidate) with 12 votes, Nudo (9) and RDP (1).

Unlike in most of the other regions, where victory is guaranteed for Swapo, Kunene is one of the regions that has given the ruling party a torrid time – if results from past polls are anything to go by.
It is faced with a double-edged sword, whereby in Kunene South, it faces stiff competition in Outjo, Kamanjab and Khorixas. In Kunene North, it has to overpower the DTA to gain political control, a feat Swapo has failed to achieve over the years.

Following the Delimitation Commission’s findings, Opuwo Constituency was split into two, namely Opuwo Urban and Opuwo Rural. The DTA currently controls, Epupa and Opuwo, while the UDF is in charge of Sesfontein, Khorixas and Kamanjab. Swapo is only in charge of the Outjo Constituency.

Voter apathy
With election day declared a public holiday, there are fears that voters may choose to stay at home, rather than stand in queues tomorrow. Parties have during the campaign appealed to their supporters to come out in numbers to vote.
Epupa has the most voters out of the seven constituencies in the region, with 10 410 registered voters, followed by Opuwo Urban (9 295), Outjo (8 349), Khorixas (7 977), Opuwo Rural (6 467) Sesfontein (4 983) and Kamanjab (4 083).

The Electoral Commission of Namibia’s director Professor Paul Isaaks is confident that voters will throng to the polls in high numbers. Yesterday Isaaks said he expects the voter turnout to be above 60 percent across the country, adding that the declaration of Friday as a public holiday would give more people an opportunity to vote. “Everything is in place to accommodate all the voters. I urge the nation to vote in numbers, because bread and butter issues are determined on regional and local authority basis,” he said.
Unlike past elections, where voter apathy was the order of the day, Isaaks is positive that things will be different this time around.

State of Kunene
According to the 2011 Population and Housing Census, Kunene is home to 86 856 people, by far one of the most impoverished regions in the country.
About 64 200 of the region’s population live in rural areas. At the time of the last census, 37 percent of the region’s youth of school-going age had never attended school. Issues that need to be tackled by the incoming political office bearers include the provision of proper sanitation, the distances people have to walk to access services such health, pension collection points, water provision, as well as improving roads across the region.
Despite registering a reduction in the incidence of poverty of 8 percentage points, Epupa, with a poverty headcount of 69 percent, is still the poorest constituency in Kunene.

It is followed by Opuwo (44 percent) and Sesfontein (40 percent). According to the National Planning Commission’s Index of Multiple Deprivation report released earlier this year, it is estimated that a quarter of the Kunene population is severely poor.

It also ranked Epupa as the most education-deprived constituency out of all the 121 constituencies across the country. With more than half of the population in the region classified as severely poor, the report indicates that the region has the potential to reduce poverty through agriculture, tourism and logistics.
Governor of Kunene North Angelika Muharukua expects incoming councillors to address the key issues, such as water provision, road infrastructure and the need for more medical personnel in rural areas.
Muharukua said the lack of sufficient rain over the past few years has affected all development activities in the region and called on those who will be elected to focus their attention on finding groundwater to solve the region’s water crisis.

“There is no rain here, so it is difficult for people to survive. Councillors must look for investors that will help us in the search for underground water. If we can succeed in that regard we will be independent,” she said.
Muharukua further said there is a need for regional government to work with traditional authorities in the region – those who are officially recognised and those who are not.

“In the past traditional authorities blocked development, because there was no cooperation, but with us this will not be the case, because we will work with them,” she said.

“We also want more nurses at the clinics in the rural areas because our people are crying that the clinics are understaffed. When nurses go on leave there is no one to attend to the patients,” she said.

Given that the DTA has dominated politics in Kunene North for decades, the recent appointment of former DTA president Katuutire Kaura as advisor to Governor Muharukua has raised eyebrows among local voters, with many viewing the move as an attempt to break the stronghold of opposition parties in the region.

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