Kavango West Governor Sirkka Ausiku says the region lags behind other regions, partly because of rolling budget cuts that have delayed the construction of a new government office park planned for the region.
The cuts also stalled the construction of new houses for the police force and other government officials deployed there.
Ausiku listed the challenges faced when she briefed Vice President Dr Nickey Iyambo when he met her at Nkurenkuru on Thursday as part of his visit to Kavango West and Kavango East, where he is interacting with chiefs, councillors and Swapo Party functionaries.
The vice president is accompanied by Agriculture Minister John Mutorwa, Deputy Minister of Tourism Tommy Nambahu, the permament secretary of Veteran Affairs, Hopelong Iipinge and the VP’s senior aides.
“We are a new region. We call ourselves the lastborn. You know Comrade Vice President, when you are the lastborn you want to be spoiled and we are trying to catch up with other regions and we also want that treatment of the lastborn, [because] we cannot compete with the other regions,” she said.
“As a new region we have our own regional council and also the Nkurenkuru Town Council. Our region is almost 99 percent rural. We don’t really have an urban area, except Nkurenkuru. This is the only place where we can accommodate bigger groups,” Ausiku told the vice president.
“We need (financial) resources to be allocated to Nkurenkuru Town Council, as well as Kavango West Regional Council to catch up with other regions,” she said and stressed that new police regional headquarters, a government office park and a new district hospital top her list of priorities.
“We want the district hospital to get off the ground,” she said, adding that the groundbreaking ceremony for the envisioned hospital took place in 2014 and was witnessed by the former president Hifikepunye Pohamba, but since then it has remained a pipedream.
Although she praised government for completing the Nkurenkuru-Elundu road that cost over N$800 million and was hailed as one of the largest post-independence road projects, she said, “the majority of people live inland and we need feeder roads for our farmers to have access to the market.
“Our roads in the inland are not good. We really need some gravel roads in the inland,” she stressed and further informed Iyambo that gravel roads are needed to facilitate hospital visits.
She also lamented the lack of mobile telecommunication infrastructure in the area, saying the issue has been brought to the attention of Information Minister Tjekero Tweya.
In the same vein she commended Agriculture Minister Mutorwa for having strengthened the presence of the Ministry of Agriculture in Kavango West, where tens of thousands of people rely on subsistence farming.
She appealed to government through the agriculture ministry to help farmers fence off their communal plots and to sink boreholes, as they have very limited financial resources.
Ausiku said: “Though I briefed you, I think our traditional authorities need to be assisted to handle the allocation of land; the same with the land board also. Our communities need to be trained through meetings, so they understand that land must be shared by all of us.”
In turn Iyambo said government has over the past two years faced recurrent droughts and the subsequent outbreak of army-worms, while there was a global economic downturn that resulted in lower commodity prices and lower demand for diamonds, uranium and copper.
This, he said, resulted in lower taxes being collected by government, as it derives a substantial chunk of its revenue from mining taxes.
“The hospital has to be here. Our colleagues, the police, will sympathise with us, but they are not forgotten. They say Rome was not built in a day. We will do things little by little. I know for a fact that Kavango West and Kavango East are the poorest regions in the whole country, followed by Ohangwena and Oshikoto. And for all these regions we have to do all that we can.”