Otuani-Residents of Otuani village in Opuwo Rural Constituency in Kunene feel left out of the country’s development, as they have been without mobile network and radio coverage since independence.
The community members aired their concerns recently during a meeting with their constituency councillor and officials from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) at Otuani, about 130km south of the town of Opuwo.
According to one community member, who preferred to remain anonymous, Otuani has been without mobile network and radio reception since the country’s independence, despite Otuani being the constituency capital of Opuwo Rural – with a clinic, school and a constituency office currently still under construction.
“It’s like having clothes that you haven’t worn for the last 10 years,” he said.
This situation, he said, makes them feel disregarded as part of Namibia since they feel lost and like they are locked up in a safe without breathing. According to him, at times they want to report important matters like cattle theft or accidents but there is no way to communicate to the relevant authorities to get assistance.
Both the radio and mobile network reception can only be accessed once one resorts to climbing high on the mountains, which is very far and risky as one might fall and encounter wild animals.
“This situation made us feel neglected by our own government, as we do not know what is happening around the world and cannot contribute or air our inputs on certain talk-shows or call in programmes on the radio,” added Hupha Tjituri, a local small-scale farmer around the Otuani area, who noted that many people have ended up losing their lives due to failure to contact essential services such as an ambulance.
Daniel Musoso, a local traditional leader, also raised his concerns saying since Otuani is the main settlement in Opuwo Rural and with a population of 2 000 inhabitants, it is unacceptable that government has turned a blind eye to their pleas since independence.
Musoso said if government does not have enough funds to set up the whole brand new network tower at the village, at least it should empower the nearby tower at Kaoko-Tavi village so that it can provide coverage to all nearby villages, or order Telecom Namibia to repair the tower at Otuani which is currently not functioning and seems to have become a white elephant.
The community stressed that if nothing is done immediately they will be forced to take to the streets and demonstrate since that is the only way government appears to hear people’s outcries in the country.
Echoing the community members’ frustrations, Constituency Councillor of Opuwo Rural, Kazeongere Tjeundo, said that he has been pushing for the network coverage around that area since 2011 but up to now nothing has been done despite all the efforts he has done, including writing letters to the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and engaging the minister on the matter.
The councillor referred to the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which envisages that 97 percent of the country’s population will be covered with network reception by 2020.
“Our constituency office will be completed soon, how will the people who are going to be employed here be able to use internet and make telephone calls?” he asked.
ICT infrastructural development is under the fourth pillar of the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which is set to come to an end in 2020. ICT Minister Tjekero Tweya has also promised to work tirelessly to provide network connectivity to all areas of the country in his performance agreement that he declared to President Hage Geingob.
*Malakia Nashongo is an information officer working in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in Kunene Region.