17 February 2017

Namibia: Koës Residents Demand Answers

FRUSTRATED Koës residents want answers from the village council over a range of issues, including suspiscions of missing council money and tender irregularities.

In response, council chairperson Johannes Cupido has attempted to be forthcoming with answers, but also brushed aside some residents' concerns as "nonsense".

The residents petitioned the council to explain why the SME stalls' project had not been completed, as well as accounting for the project costs to date, to say whether there was still money to complete the project, and when it would in fact be completed.

"We were envisaging small retail shops, where locally manufactured goods like arts and crafts and veldskoene could have been produced and sold to tourists. Now it has turned into an eyesore and beacon of failure," the petition stated.

Similarly, residents wanted to know what the level of local involvement in the N$300 000 community project is. Residents also wanted to know what was done about complaints registered with council over poor workmanship at houses built under the government-funded Build Together programme, as well as when these houses, which were constructed four years ago, would be connected to the electricity grid.

They also wanted feedback on what action would be taken against the contractor for having built sub-standard houses.

Cupido said these projects were not administered by the council, and advised residents to seek answers from the //Karas Regional Council and the Namibian-German Special Initiative Programme, the project implementers.

However, he said he was informed that the SME stalls project was halted after the contractor was fired.

"We were told a contractor will soon be appointed to resume the construction of the SME stalls," he added. Concerned over reliable water and electricity supply, residents furthermore wanted to know whether water was still sourced from local boreholes, which they feared would soon dry up, or from NamWater. Residents believe NamWater's supply would be much cheaper, and questioned whether council had a contingency plan in place in case boreholes ran dry.

"Are we correct in stating that the responsibility for water supply falls on NamWater, if we run into a situation similar to what Uis experiences at the moment?" residents asked, referring to the water crisis at Uis after boreholes there dried up.

The cash-strapped village recently also faced darkness after NamPower threatened to cut electricity supply due to poor payments.

Against this backdrop, residents then asked council to reveal how much money it still owed NamPower, and to provide them with proof of payments made over the past 12 months.

In addition, they also demanded that council reveals its current financial position.

Residents suspect that income generated from pre-paid electricity sales was used to cover other council expenses.

Concerning the lack of development at the village, residents asked council why it had prioritised the gravelling of a road in the Soek & Kry location, instead of socio-economic development projects.

Countering purported claims of fund misappropriations, Cupido said the council had inherited electricity and water bills which had accumulated under the previous council.

He revealed that the village owed NamPower about N$300 000, but said they expected to honour the debt soon.

"We only owe NamWater a small amount since we supply water to locals from our boreholes," he added.

Cupido further stated that he could not answer for the road gravelling since it was the Roads Authority's (RA) responsibility.

The residents also complained about the local dumpsite, which they claimed was a health hazard and an eyesore to tourists passing by.

"How can we as stakeholders assist you to deal with this issue?" they asked.

And residents also claimed bucket toilets were being emptied at any open space, which threatened to contaminate underground water.

For his part, Cupido dismissed the underground water pollution charge as "nonsense", explaining that the village's sewage was emptied into a sewerage pond.

He blamed commercial farmers of nearby farms for the poor condition of the dumpsite, claiming that they were discarding their waste in the vicinity of the dumpsite instead of on the site, even though they had access at all times.

Cupido admitted that the implementation of capital projects, such as the upgrading of the sewerage system, had been delayed due to a lack of government finances.

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