Namibia: Impalila Wants to Cut Dependency On Botswana

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27 September 2021

RESIDENTS of Imapalila Island have been pressuring the Namibian government to provide them with the necessary services to end their dependency on Botswana.

Since independence, villagers of the island have been depending on Kasane, a border town along the Chobe River on Botswana's side, for supplies, medical services and getting access to mainland Namibia.

The villagers, say they have suffered enough at the hands of not only the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), but also the town's inhabitants.

The parliamentary standing committee on home affairs, security, constitutional and legal affairs visited the villagers on Friday to consult them on the security situation along the Chobe River.

The residents' submission, read by Siboleka Sikanda, said their dependency on Botswana has subjected them to harassment and aggression.

"We are sick and tired. Therefore, do not force us to reconcile with Botswana. We don't want to depend on them . . . They don't have the spirit of ubuntu," he said.

Sikanda said 3 years after independence their children do not have access to television, radio, or proper roads.

"Our government should prioritise the construction of the road from Nakabolelwa to Kasika to relieve our suffering. A bridge must be constructed to connect Imapalila across the Kasaya channel to the mainland," he said.

Sikanda said travelling from flood-prone areas is unaffordable due to the road conditions.

Villager Eunice Silumesi said customs officials in Botswana will stamp their passports if it is wet.

"They make us wait for hours and can even deny us entry," she said.

Silumesi further said villagers are mocked when they buy groceries at Kasane.

"The area has vast tourism potential and could thus attract investors. However, this can only happen if the government brings electricity and makes it accessible," she said.

A tour guide along the Chobe River, Martin Sibalatani, said the friendship between Namibia and Botswana is only shared by the two presidents.

"As Namibian tour guides we are not allowed to dock our boats at customs. We float in the river, waiting for our clients to arrive through Botswana," he said.

Another villager, Charles Matengu, said he is puzzled by the Namibian government, who after independence signed a border treaty with Botswana.

"Botswana did not claim anything then, so why now? The dispute of boundaries started when the Swapo government took over," he said.

Sikanda said riparian villagers and Namibian tour operators, as well as tourists, have been arrested and fined, as well as killed on the Chobe River.

"We don't feel safe in our own motherland. Our government is reluctant to protect us from the foreign army. The ownership of Kasikili was ruled in favour of Botswana. Then we have the 2018 border treaty, whereby Botswana took vast land from Namibia. The latest is the Chobe River code of conduct, which is brewing. What else is Botswana going to take from Namibia, while we stand and watch?" he asked.

The villagers of Kasika said their livelihoods are deeply affected, as the BDF disrupts their fishing activities along the river by constantly confiscating the fishermen's nets on the Namibian side of the river, and sometimes their fish.

"We live in fear every day, even just to be along the river or to get water at the river," said Boniface Simasiku.

The island, which is only accessible by boat, has infrastructure like a police station, a school, a clinic without a doctor, a state house and other government institutions.

Minister of works and transport John Mutorwa recently officiated at the upgrading of access roads to the island.

The upgrading of the district roads on the island will cost about N$60 million and would take two years to complete, he said.

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