Ongwediva-Once a deep rural battlefield and backwater, the Ohangwena region has over the years transformed itself into a thriving region boasting various infrastructural developments.
At independence, the region had no notable infrastructure and residents relied on nearby towns such as Ondangwa and Oshakati to access basic services.
“Ohangwena was 100 percent rural,” recalls the first governor of the region, Billy Mwaningange, relating how the first regional administrators travelled about 70 kilometre to make a call to the central government in Windhoek. He was Ohangwena governor for 12 years running and now the deputy minister of Defence. He says fiscal planning of the region and communications were done from the then colonial administration building in Ondangwa until mid-1994.
With a skeleton staff of four administrators, signs of development were observed within the first four years after independence between 1995 and 1996. “It was not an easy road, but the officials assigned to our region to oversee development were very instrumental,” emphasises Mwaningange.
The region was hounded by lack of schools, primary health care facilities, roads and water infrastructure but all that has seen a steady improvement.
Twenty-seven years into independence, Mwaningange says he is now partially a happy former governor, adding that while parts of the region are still without basic necessities like telecommunications network and potable water, much has been achieved.
At independence, Ohangwena had no telecommunications network connections and only one water pipeline for the entire region.
But he wants to see more improvement in education, health, and agriculture.
Former chairperson of the regional council, Paulus Mwahanyekange, says the region has grown in terms of infrastructure.
“It is [a] relief to know that our people no longer travel to Ondangwa and Oshakati to access basic services, but I want to see more constituencies develop into towns,” says Mwahanyekange.
Taking a glance at the region’s current development, the acting chief regional officer, Phillipus Uusiku, says government has in recent years started decentralising government projects in a quest to bring development closer to the people. Uusiku adds that the region has transformed Engela and Omungwelume to settlements while Okongo has recently been upgraded to a village council.
However, he is appealing for decentralisation of the budget to ensure speedy and timely implementation of government projects.
Uusiku says while a few ministries have been centralised, their budget is still controlled and managed from central government level.
The biggest challenge the region faces currently is the absence of potable water in the eastern parts of the region, especially during the dry season.
Some communities, especially in the Okongo constituency, depend entirely on boreholes.
Uusiku says the region is aware of the plight of people travelling long distances to access basic services. He assures that their problems would be addressed depending on the availability of funds but adds that the council is looking into putting up feeder roads to address their concerns.
The lack of feeder roads is attracting unqualified and underqualified teachers and as a result hampering the education sector in the region.
“Some constituencies barely have [telecommunications] network while some areas have limited network and are thus required to climb on trees to get network. These are all things we are looking at and we have channelled them to the relevant authorities,” says Uusiku, adding that the region has plans to extend the Onambutu pipeline to provide water to the affected people.
“It will not be soon given the prevailing economic crisis, but that is our plan,” says Uusiku.