Okakarara, a town on the rise

By Michael Uugwanga

MOST people only know Okakarara because of its popular annual trade fair that usually attracts thousands of exhibitors and visitors to the town, yet others may know the town for its beautiful infrastructure and development, thanks to its competent town council that continues to turn the town into one of the most appealing places to live in.

Okakarara is a town in Otjozondjupa Region located 50 km southeast of the Waterberg National Park and it has an estimated population of 7 000 and is currently growing by 1 500 inhabitants annually.

The town consists of the residential areas of Pamue, the former whites-only area, and Okakarara Proper, the former black residential area. It is the district capital of the Okakarara electoral constituency that includes surrounding settlements.

Perhaps its most appealing area is its Central Business District (CBD) that is almost fully developed and the council has realised the need to plan for additional business erven.

In addition the council has been approached by a number of investors requiring land for light industrial and business activities, while some of the potential developments soon to hit the town include a solar power plant, manganese smelter, various agro-industrial activities and some manufacturing activities.

The first house to be built in the town was by Salathiel Kambamba Kambazembi and Reinard Tjerije who arrived in the area in 1923, before the settlement grew over time and was proclaimed a town in 1992 and today Okakarara is the centre of the Herero Tribal Authority since the early 1970s.

With the Regional Council and Local Authority elections just around the corner which will see new councillors sworn-in, the current councillors remain committed in bringing development to the town.

As part of the town council’s long term strategic plans, the current leaders have already outlined some of the projects that will enable the town to bring service delivery closer to its residents even though the councillors have been operating under financial limitations.

“Serving as councillors for Okakarara was indeed a noble gesture that we performed with outmost dedication and absolute commitment.  However, it was equally challenging due to limited resources versus high expectations of service delivery from the inhabitants and indeed it was a notable experience – provision of housing and creating a conducive business environment for potential investors in order to create employment opportunities for local residents.

“There was rehabilitation of the sewerage pump station as we bought a new pump; provision of ervens and housing to residents, pre-paid water system installation commissioning, and compensation of residents at informal settlement to paving way for development.

“Yes, we are also done with the completion of the informal settlements, fencing of the dumping site and oxidation ponds, expansion of the reservoir, construction of the street vendors’ open market, compensation of Okatumba residents and the servicing of residential ervens,” Veundjua Kamutuezu, Okakarara town council mayor said.

Despite the town council working tirelessly it is still facing challenges of   recouping outstanding water bills in excess of millions of dollars dating back to 2004. The town council has however been making various arrangements with its residents in finding a way to recover the money. 

Other  challenges the town council has been struggling to overcome is the construction of housing, sewer system, supply of clean portable water to residents in all settlements, mushrooming of illegal settlements and unemployment,

“We have employed a finance manager who is responsible for engaging   the inhabitants and to make arrangement of their outstanding debts. We have also requested for a ministerial approval to write off 50 percent of the debt. We have also created a temporary site for informal traders/street vendors and we have also proposed subdivision of the remainder of Okakarara for the purpose of formalising informal settlements.

“As a council we are concerned over mushrooming of illegal informal settlements, poor revenue collection due to external factors such as drought attributed by poor rainfall, Covid-19 and high unemployment rate.  It is important for councillors to bring desired or expected results. If I am to rate the town’s achievements out of 10, I will say five out of 10,” added the mayor.

Kamutuezu on the other hand said that construction of 70 houses under the Shack Dwellers Federation is almost completed.

“Further 80 houses under construction through the National Housing Enterprise site has already been handed over to constructors. We are also going to demolish compounds/ single quarters as we plan to construct an open market to the tune of N$1,5 million,” he said.