Okongo — Very few people who knew this remote place in the jungle of the Ohangwena Region would ever have thought it would one day become one of the focal points of development.
It is now one of the beneficiaries of the much talked about N$800 million Trans-Caprivi Highway to Cape Frio on the Atlantic coast.
Clearly, this last bastion of development in the Ohangwena Region is remotely situated about 120 kilometres east of Eenhana, the capital of the Ohangwena Region. A former settlement of the San people, it was only known then for hunting expeditions by Namibia's oldest tribe, the San people, hence the name Okongo, which is derived from "onhele yOukongo" (place\forest for hunting). It is named after the constituency and also the settlement area intended to be developed into a fully-fledged town soon.
For the colonial administration, Okongo was only good as a springboard of its military expeditions inside Angola in pursuit of the freedom fighters of Swapo and harassment of Angolans and their MPLA led government. There has never been any tangible development at Okongo.
Speaking to New Era recently, the Councillor for Okongo Constituency, Paulus Mwahanyekange, said his constituency has witnessed impressive development efforts effected by the Government during the past 18 years of independence. The community of Okongo should be proud to have been the beneficiaries of such development activities. The development programmes and other essential services were brought to the area jointly by the Government and the private sector after the Government created conducive environment for investors and developers to settle in the area.
Mwahanyekange noted that his constituency is large, sandy and forested so much that most of the time it is difficult to reach key areas but the Government with the full participation of the community concerned has done their best to alleviate the plight of many people. With a population of 25000, about 140 km in length and 50 km in breadth, 20 growth centres, Okongo Constituency will soon inaugurate a N$14 million SME Industrial Park initiated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry under the Offshore Development Company (ODC). About two years ago, a N$20 million police station with a mortuary, holding cells, magistrate's courts, two houses - one for the station commander and the other for the Unit commander - as well as 13 barracks were inaugurated by President Hifikepunye Pohamba. As a result, this has lessened the burden of suspects being transported to Eenhana some 120 kilometres away for custody and hearing of cases. Although the magistrate's court is not yet functional due to lack of staff, it is believed that it will open soon.
Before independence, the office of the Inspector of Education was based at Ondangwa but currently it is within the Okongo Constituency.
Apart from the office, the educational sector in this area has realised the construction of 35 primary schools, teachers accommodation and the upgrading of Oshela Secondary School not only in terms of physical infrastructure but also the extension of the curriculum to Grade 12. It is envisaged that a new secondary school will be constructed at Oshikunde, west of Okongo proper.
Concerning the provisions of health services and facilities, a 62-bed modern hospital equipped with a mortuary and nurses homes was constructed and is run by a Namibian principal medical officer assisted y a Cuban doctor.
Currently, the hospital is being extended to have the Communicable Diseases Control (CDC) section. With regard to the provision of accommodation, about 50 houses were constructed under the Build Together Project. More houses areexpected to be constructed after the town land has been serviced.
Said Mwahanyekange: "We are moving in the right direction when it comes to road development in this constituency. Our record is very impressive with regard o the roads network. Already, 38 labour-based feeder roads of which eight were proclaimed have been constructed. Besides, Okongo Constituency will be the direct beneficiary of the N$800 million much-anticipated Trans-Caprivi Highway, which will come from Rundu to Eenhana as part of efforts to connect the road network up to the Cape Frio on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean."
Mwahanyekange noted that although there is more room for improvement, its achievements are too numerous. On the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, he said it is well represented here, through the Directorate of Forestry, Extensions and Veterinary services. The ministry has also other projects at Omauni where a protected community forest has been operational for years now as well as the quarantine for cattle breeders. Again there are two silos with a capacity of 500 tonnes each being constructed here as part of Government efforts for Namibia to reach its goals of self-sufficiency in food production. One of the handicaps facing the Directorate of Forestry is the fact that the officials who are tasked with curbing illegal cutting of trees in the area are not allowed to work after hours and over the weekends because of budgetary constraints to pay overtime. Again the absence of the sub-receiver of revenue certified by the Ministry of Finance is hampering the performance of this office especially when it comes to selling seedlings and auctioning trees confiscated from illegal deforesters. As a result, people make use of the opportunity and exploit the absence of forestry officials after hours and over the weekends to cut trees and transport them with impunity.
Provision of water is one of the priorities on the agenda of the constituency development programme. So far, it has resulted in 86 boreholes being drilled with further water supply expected to come from the envisaged Oshikunde Secondary School. Besides, the constituency has also progressed well with the scheme of rural electrification, which has been completed at Okongo settlement, Oluwaya and Ekoka.
Only recently the residents of the Okongo Constituency converged at Omutwe womunhu to honour their heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives for the liberation struggle of the country. The event was a belatedly Heroes Day celebrations at a place with a tree which has become a bone of contention after two rival parties Swapo and RDP flagged it. Swapo had put its flag on August 13 while RDP did the same on the August 29.
According to Mwahanyekange the celebrations at Omutwe womunhu were called to pay tribute to their fallen heroes and heroines, especially the sons and daughters of the constituency who have sacrificed their lives in and around what was known as a war theatre between the then South African colonial forces and the Swapo military wing, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN).
New Era was informed that there are still many unmarked graves in the thick jungles of Okongo Constituency while others have been identified and cared for by the communities themselves. Okongo proper where the military base of the former army was headquartered with an airfield, is said to have a mass graveand five people are said to be buried at Omboloka and five combatants at Ohameva including a well-known commander Katonya and his personal aid.
Coincidentally, on the day of the celebrations one of the veterans of the liberation struggle Paulus Ndipwashimwe was laid to rest here. The late Ndipwashimwe is hailed as one of the residents of the nearby Oshuuli village who supported the combatants. As a result, he became a potential target of the vicious anger of the enemy. Oshuuli village is said to have been one of those areas, which were vacated during the war after it was burned down by colonial troops.
Speaking at the celebrations on behalf of the Minister of Regional and Local Government,Housing and Rural Development, Jerry Ekandjo, Oshana Governor Clemens Kashuupulwa said there is no party in Namibia which can claim to have fought and sacrificed for freedom and democracy other than Swapo hence the opposition parties including the RDP cannot claim to know democracy better than Swapo, which brought it through sacrifices. He said most of the opposition parties, out of desperation are now forming coalitions under the leadership of the RDP but Swapo is more than ready to take them on come elections.
"The young generation should not allow themselves to be misled by sellouts such as Hidipo [Hamutenya], [Jesaya] Nyamu, Peter Naholo and others who have been hibernating in Swapo claiming to be leaders while in the true sense of the word they were not patriots. These people like to claim that they are intellectuals who are politically well informed. This is not true. I can say they are a bunch of educated puppets who should not be allowed to mislead the nation since they have lost direction like flying bats."
He commended the people of Okongo Constituency for their steadfastness and commitment to the liberation struggle and urged them to support the next phase of the struggle for economic emancipation. The governor operated as a PlAN combatant in the Okongo Constituency.