Namibia: Omaruru Residents Bemoan Underdevelopment

21 November 2019

THE Omaruru community, through the Omaruru Residents Association, made a desperate appeal to president Hage Geingob to intervene in the alleged mismanagement and decline of the town.

In a letter addressed to Geingob, of which The Namibian has a copy, association chairman Bobby Griebel said the petition is an "act of despair".

"The citizens of Omaruru have seen a drastic decay of the once beautiful and booming town to a run-down, dirty and unsightly place, which previously fascinated many tourists and Namibians," the letter read.

He said this decay began when the current town council took over matters in 2015.

Urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga paid Omaruru a visit in May 2018 to listen to the community's concerns, but according to Griebel, the problems have only worsened since then.

No help was allegedly forthcoming, even after the Omaruru Residents Association (ORA) directed at least six requests to Mushelenga since his visit, which, to date, have remained unanswered. Letters were also allegedly sent to the CEO of the municipality, Alfons Tjitombo - but remain unanswered, Griebel added.

"The current situation is critical in all aspects. It is why we request your excellency to intervene in order to avert a disaster before it is too late," the letter appealed.

The Omaruru chapter of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as the ORA, handed two files containing issues they have with the town's administration to Mushelenga during his last visit in 2018.

Mushelenga at the time said that he hoped the complaints would be addressed, and brought to an end.

The list of issues included questions around the town's strategic plan of 2018 to 2022, refuse and sewage management, street vendors, service infrastructure, and the town's water crisis, amongst others.

"Not only did the economic downturn in Namibia leave its mark on Omaruru, but the former jewel of small towns in Namibia has been run into the ground by the local authority over the past 20 years," Griebel said.

He said local businesses have invested millions of dollars in the past 20 years to drive the economy, and to place Omaruru on the map as a tourist destination of a special kind.

"All those efforts are in vain due to [the] total lack of governance by the local authority. The rot needs to be exposed," said Griebel.

Tjitombo told The Namibian yesterday that comprehensive reports of concerns were forwarded to the minister by the council about three months ago to inform him of the issues.

He said about three weeks ago, there was also a visit from the office of the ombudsman, which apparently did little to resolve anything, as per the complaints.

"The residents have their democratic right to lodge their concerns, but it needs to be objective and based on facts," he said, suggesting that the complainants wanted to tarnish the name of the local authority.

"We must respect one another. We have improved our corporate governance and our transparency, but they want to hijack our operations."

According to him, some claims were conspiracy theories, while other issues are being dealt with, and that the ministry is fully aware of the situation.

Tjitombo referred The Namibian to urban development deputy minister Derek Klazen, who in turn told this newspaper that he did not see any reports.

Klazen said he will look into the matter.

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