30 January 2013

Namibia: Khorixas Going Downhill

THE economy of the former capital of the Kunene Region, Khorixas, has taken a nose-dive since independence.

No major development has taken place at the town since it lost its status as the regional capital. The capital has since been moved to Opuwo, which has seen significant growth in recent years.

Khorixas, like many other towns in the country, is struggling with high unemployment among its youth, who have chosen to migrate to other towns in search of greener pastures.

The Namibian interviewed some community members and officials about the state of town and its economy.

Community member Mistake !Hoaeb said the local leadership must be blamed for the town's economic woes.

"At the council you are told land is available for development, but next time you are told it is not available. The council does not care about the people, look at high municipal tariffs," said !Hoaeb.

!Hoaeb called on the committee that issues shebeen licences to put a halt to the mushrooming of shebeens and nightclubs, as this stifles development.

He said some local businesses are afraid of competition and are opposed to new investors entering the town.

George Pieters, a local businessman, blamed the lack of cooperation between entrepreneurs at the town for the economic downfall of Khorixas. "We don't have a local chamber for business people and communication is lacking, which affects development," Pieters said.

Pieters also pointed at the lack of land for development, saying there is no land to further expand businesses and renting is the only option.

"If there is no competition there will be no development and without development there will be no progress," Pieters said.

Isabella Matsuis said the lack of job opportunities has forced many young people to migrate to coastal towns for jobs. "There is no other option but come to coast in search of a job as there is none at Khorixas," said Matsuis, who has been living at the coast since finishing matric in 2006.

According to another youth, who spoke on condition of anonymity, "some youths are forced into prostitution at Khorixas due to unemployment".

"I know some of my friends, both female and male, who sell themselves as there is no other way," the youth told The Namibian.

Khorixas Constituency councillor Sebastian !Gobs said the local leadership is capable of development as they did during the time of the Damara Administration before independence.

The unequal distribution of state money was one of the factors that affected Khorixas negatively, !Gobs said.

According to !Gobs, local Swapo leaders must also be blamed for the town's economic state as they are at times against development.

"Top leaders [ruling party] are also openly boasting that opposition-led towns will not be developed," !Gobs stated.

He said residents must also take initiative and engage in developmental projects.

He called on local business people to come together with ideas such as a business complex.

Khorixas Mayor Tryphosa Moloto is of the opinion that like any other local authority, Khorixas has created a conducive environment for investors.

She said the council was doing its best to provide basic services to attract investors, but its resources were limited, adding that only the central government "can help us to better our infrastructure".

The mayor differed with the generally held view that the councillors are against development and said "councillors also want the town to be developed as the current state affects us all".

"I dream of an investor-friendly town," Moloto said.

The Khorixas town council has launched an alienation scheme through which residents can buy municipal houses, but so far only about 20 percent of the residents have taken up the option because the majority of the people are unemployed.

Moloto said there was a need for a vocational training centre to be opened because the majority of school leavers were doing nothing and just roaming the streets aimlessly.

"Opening a vocational training centre will cut costs for local youths as they currently have to travel long distances to get skills," Moloto said.

Moloto said the economic woes of Khorixas are also caused by the central government, which seems not to care about the increasing poverty and unemployment at the town. "Are the administrative staff withholding our project proposals or are political leaders to blame," Moloto asked.

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