Windhoek — Floods are threatening villages in the flood-prone Kabbe Constituency in the Caprivi Region following the rapid rise of the Zambezi River, leaving thousands of villagers including school-going children cut off from all the main roads.
Recent heavy downpours have compounded the flooding in the far northeastern region. Kabbe Constituency councillor, Raphael Mbala, says the situation has reached alarming dimensions, because almost all the major roads and routes leading to town and to schools in the area have been cut off.
"At the moment residents are not getting government services such as pension grants, because vehicles cannot reach the elderly. Also, school inspectors are not able to reach schools to deliver teaching materials due to heavy rains," Mbala told New Era yesterday.
He said the road from Kakisa along the Zambezi River from the main road of Ngoma to the Imukusi Combined School has been cut off.
The two-track Imukusi/Lisikili road is also affected. Other roads that have become impassable are the ones from Isize Combined School to Sifuha Primary School; Malindi Combined School to Schuckmannsburg Combined School; Namiyundu Primary School to Nankuntwe Combined School; Muzii Combined School to Mpukano Primary School, while the one from Dr Sam Nujoma Combined School (Kabbe) to Schuckmannsburg has already been cut off.
Other schools that have been isolated by the deluge include the Lusese Combined School, Ikaba Combined School, Nsundwa Primary School, and Izimwe Primary School to Nakabolelwa Combined School. The road linking Ivilivinzi Primary School to Mbalasinte Combined School and that also connects Kasika Primary School to Impalila Combined School has also been affected, while the one from Ngoma Primary School to Masikili Primary School is also flooded.
However, although these areas are cut off, classes have not yet been interrupted since children cross the water to their respective schools using dugout canoes. "In all these areas people engage in fishing to survive. Now they cannot take their fish to the Katima Mulilo open market to sell, because the roads are blocked," lamented the councillor.
Mbala also emphasised that although schools located on higher ground are not yet affected, they could be cut off if the Zambezi River kept rising.
On January 15 the Zambezi River rose to 2.02m, and the next day it reached the 2.07m mark and by last Friday the river had risen to the 2.26m mark. Unrelenting, the river reached the 2.45m mark on Saturday, increasing to 2.59m on Sunday and 2.70m on Monday. "You can see it is rising very fast. The water from the upper Zambezi form part of the catchment area for inflows from the south of the DRC, north-west Zambia and south-eastern Angola," Mbala said.
No death or injuries have been reported so far, although reports of washed away crop fields have already caused a situation the councillor described as "worrisome and a source of serious concern," for people in the affected areas, who may experience very poor harvests. He has already forwarded a request to the Ministry of Works and Transport to finalise the list of fares for villagers, who may have to make use of the idle ferry - christened 'Richard Kapelwa Kabajani.'
The ferry, named after the late liberation hero, has not been operational due to the low water levels and high fares initially proposed by the Ministry of Works and Transport, which many residents consider too steep. "We need a new tariff list so we can know what to charge from one place to another. We informed the ministry last year August about the tariffs that we suggested, but up to now there is no response."
In 2011, about seven schools and scores of villagers had to be evacuated due to severe flooding. "People are stranded now. Last week the Minister of Works (Erkki Nghimtina) promised to take the matter to Cabinet to have the tariffs finalised," Mbala said. The Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Willy Kauaria, confirmed that there are set prices, but the communities consider them unaffordable.
"I had a meeting with the councillor last year. He said people realised the prices were too high and they complained to him. In the meeting we told him to go back to his people and determine stopping points of the ferry and the prices. They proposed the prices and now the ministry is in the process of approaching Cabinet on whether the current prices will be changed or not," he said.
Kauaria explained that the ferry prices were set according to the fuel consumption of the vessel. "If we have to cut on prices then we need to see how we can cater for the shortfall," he said. The old fares used to be N$200 per person from Katima Mulilo to Impalila Island, which is a distance of some 160km, which villagers felt was too expensive. They want the fare to be reduced to N$80 per one-way trip.
Meanwhile, the boat trip from Schuckmannsburg to Naziyando some 15km away will cost N$10 and the fare to close-by villagers will be N$5. "All roads to Katima Mulilo are blocked so we need the ferry," Mbala told New Era.