18 January 2013

Namibia: 'Affording Basic Services Could Become Unbearable'


Windhoek — The boundaries of the City of Windhoek are stretched to the limit, the population has ballooned and the city council's budget is under pressure as well. Criticism is pouring in from residents on issues of traffic congestion, inadequate supply of electricity and water to informal settlements, and the absence of ablution facilities in the settlements. Residents in the suburbs are complaining of escalating tariffs for utilities and unjustifiable increases of rates and taxes. New Era's Paulus Paulus approached the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Windhoek Niilo Taapopi for comment on these and other challenges facing the City of Windhoek.

Is the criticism justified and what is the council doing to address these problems?

The Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG) project is well on track to address this problem of providing water and electricity supply, but will unfortunately take time because of the mountainous terrain that makes slow progress to install infrastructure into the ground. With regard to traffic congestion, the city, in cooperation with GTZ (a development company from Germany) has commissioned a study on a Sustainable Urban Transport Management Master Plan, the outcome of which shall be presented to council upon completion. The study is to look into the pedestrian movements, use of public transport and non-motorised transport

Your predecessors at City of Windhoek have for years talked of expanding the city boundaries to avail more land. What have you done during your tenure as CEO to ensure that this becomes a reality? How far is the process of expansion?

The consultation between the Ministry [of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development], the City of Windhoek and the regional council took place at the beginning of 2011 and the process was officially completed and gazetted on September 20, 2011. The city's boundaries have been extended officially and the city is now looking at operational plans to provide a planning framework for the newly incorporated areas. Boundary expansion has been promulgated as per the Government Gazette.

The City of Windhoek in the past lobbied the Central Government to get a percentage of tax collected within the town to boost the City of Windhoek' revenue stream. How far is the process or has the Central Government totally rejected the proposal?

Worldwide municipalities receive financial assistance from their governments through taxes, mainly VAT collected within the municipal boundaries, and the city remains hopeful that they will join hands with government this year to overcome joint responsibilities. Further investigation into this matter will receive more attention this year. This process is part of the White Paper on Local Authority Reforms spearheaded by the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development. This is a national submission that concerns local authorities across Namibia.

City of Windhoek incurred the highest budget deficit in the last two financial years. How is this year's budget, and would the city be able to meet all its obligations on such a budget? Should Windhoek residents again brace themselves to fork out more to fund the City of Windhoek's annual budget deficit?

Central Government remains the city's main stakeholders to address the provision of basic services to its people and will not be able to continue indefinitely as the only custodian for its residents. Bulk suppliers are the main culprits when tariffs are raised annually and water and electricity have become unaffordable. We are hopeful that government will assist the city this year within its budget to come to the aid of its people otherwise it can become unbearable to afford basic services in the future.

Windhoek has held the record of being the 'Cleanest City in Africa'. Can we confidently say Windhoek is still the cleanest city in Africa or have things changed?

The clean city status continues to enjoy centre stage of our pride as a city and indeed Windhoekers. We appreciate your positive concern, and wish to renew our continued commitment to uphold our hard earned 'Cleanest City in Africa' status. In fact, this project is one of the agenda priorities of the newly elected Mayor Agnes Kafula. Apart from the standing operational waste management activities, the mayor has undertaken to mobilise all Windhoekers to participate in the clean-up campaigns commencing early February 2013.

In terms of strategic alliances you had with other sister towns in the world, how do these alliances make a tangible contribution to the operations and functions of the City of Windhoek?

The City of Windhoek being both the political and economic capital city of the Republic of Namibia appreciates the importance and effects of globalisation. Not only to share our experiences, but also to tap into best practices from other sister cities and towns around the globe. It is for this reason that the city has an approved International Relations Policy adopted in the spirit of Namibia Foreign Relations Policy. Windhoek enjoys cooperation with sister cities in the region and beyond, through formal development cooperation agreements and twinning arrangements across the world. Notable project-based agreements have been entered with the cities of Vantaa in Finland, Shanghai in China, and Abbotsford in Canada just to mention a few, where notable contributions have been achieved. The Windhoek/Vantaa cooperation is a project-based development cooperation funded by the Finish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The cooperation has witnessed notable achievements particularly capacity building and skills transfer, as well as material support in the areas of early childhood development (ECD), community library, youth development, cultural heritage, city planning and good governance.

The cooperation supports the Greenwell Matongo Community Library with books, computers and training community members. Plans are underway to replicate the community library services at Okahandja Park where the Nathanael Maxuilili library is to be constructed to which the cooperation will make a financial contribution.

On early childhood development the cooperation provides training on management of ECD centres, children playground equipment, books, furniture and office equipment. Two Windhoek ECD centres, Rocky Crest and Jonas Haiduwa, will benefit from the cooperation. Apart from support to the two centres, Namcol, Unam, the Ministry of Education and Eros Girls staff members had an opportunity to benefit from ECD training in Finland funded by the cooperation.

On cultural heritage the cooperation supports the development of the City Museum, providing training in curatorship and management of museums; as well as the collection of artefacts in which areas Vantaa has centuries of experience. Windhoek is now busy with the development of its own City Museum on a property along Robert Mugabe Avenue.

Windhoek has also befriended the City of Abbotsford in cooperating on public safety and policing. A number of City Police officers received training through attachment to the Abbotsford Police Department. Since inception in 2007, the Windhoek City Police Department has been sending its members to Abbotsford for training. Abbotsford Police Department officers also visited Windhoek on a number of occasions providing training courses in various policing disciplines. The structured training has improved the operational capabilities and professionalism of the City Police.

The city further maintains relationships with its sister cities Berlin, Bremen, and Trossingen in Germany; as well as with its regional partners Johannessburg, Drakenstein, Lusaka, Gaborone, Lubumbashi and Brazzaville.

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