CoW infighting cripples developmental prospects

Minority political parties who in the most recent elections promised the electorate what it had been missing during the tenure of the ruling Swapo party have thus far made a mess of their opportunity and their lack of coherence and failure to put residents before their own needs remains worrying.

A scathing attack on the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) leader, Panduleni Itula by city mayor, Job Amupanda highlighting him as a power hungry leader who has a weak political immune system, was the last straw in the coalition’s attempt to change the fortunes of Windhoek.

This of course has been preceded by allegations of ultimatums, purging and a mayoral plan that failed to get off the ground at the expense of city dwellers who still yearn for land and the service delivery that they deserve.

With a crunch council meeting next week, that will determine the future of the city, we call on those entrusted with the responsibility to run the capital to consider residents and put aside their individual egos.

We cannot ignore the fact that our local authorities, including our biggest, the City of Windhoek, are at the core of promoting economic growth.

One of the most distinct areas of local government’s competence with a direct and profound impact and influence over economic growth is the effective and efficient provision of core services. These services – reliable water and energy supply, road maintenance, refuse removal, effective policing of municipal by-laws – are not only key ingredients of a functional city but also catalysts of growth.

With that in mind, residents must also begin to hold their city councillors responsible. Instead of watching as they tear each other apart, it is a partial responsibility of ratepayers to demand better from their leaders. Accountability is one of the fundamental principles of the country’s constitutional democracy. Any person or government institution that does not give effect to accountability contravenes the Constitution.

Recently, these same city fathers have been reported to have taken good care of their pockets with hefty salaries. On the contrary, almost 85 percent of the informal settlers in Windhoek do not own the land they occupy and have limited or no access to basic services like water and sanitation; lack proper infrastructure like roads and formal housing structures.

While these problems seem to be not going away anytime soon residents must demand policies that recognise the complex nature of informal settlements. These policies need to provide pathways for urban dwellers to own the land they occupy and drive the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda of “leaving no one behind”.

At the rate Windhoek is going, it seems unlikely this goal will be met by the 2030 deadline. But some things could be done differently to change this and put Windhoek’s urban poor on a more prosperous, secure and dignified path.

This different path has to begin next week when a new mayor and management committee chairperson are installed.