Otjiwarongo Mayor opens up on development

Upclose and personal with Bennes Haimbondi

By Rosalia David

DESPITE loss of revenue, Mayor Bennes Haimbondi said the council has managed to bring significant development to the town while remaining steadfast in its quest to best serve its residents.

In an interview with Confidente this week, Haimbondi highlights some of the council’s  achievements.

How would you describe your tenure serving as the Mayor for your town?

At the very beginning of this term, what we put emphasis on was that the people of Otjiwarongo should be active participants in the process of governance. In other words, we held, as we still do, the view that we emboldened a collaborative community centred approach towards serving our institution to address burning community needs.  As a result, the very first thing we undertook was to go to the places where people live, work and play, so that we get a real feel of the conditions under which they live. This proved to be a catalyst for the creation of a correct and accurate understanding on the part of the municipality, such that our response is properly coordinated to address the real.  Since thenwe have achieved a number of significant successes in the area of our mandated obligation in terms of Section 30 of the Local Authorities Act, 1992 (Act 23 of 1992). We think that it is because our response was informed by the people’s needs. So as an administration we continued to engage our residents as important partners to improve their economic lifestyle. We can only thank the people of Otjiwarongo, the staff at the Municipality and fellow council members for their continued support and confidence in our ability and commitment to improve their livelihood.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your tenure?

The challenges encountered in our reign are varied and multifaceted as are the successes too. As a Local Authority tasked with turning around the economy of our town by providing and meeting the basic needs of our respective inhabitants, it is equally a daunting task and a tall order to carry out smoothly. However, the experience to serve has been fulfilling especially when you know that one has provided grounds for a solution to varied challenges.

Loss of Revenue

The influx of people in town subsequently puts immense pressure on Otjiwarongo Local Authority to keep up with the growing demand of providing basic services, such as housing, water and sewerage. At a growth rate of 3.6 percent per annum the town grew from a population of 28 249 in 2011 to about 40 000, an increase of ±1 200 inhabitants per annum. As a Local Authority, Otjiwarongo Municipality remains a catalyst and an enabling conveyer belt of economic development for the town to uplift its community through the provision of basic services, the promotion of the town as a trade hub and attracting investors.  However, the current economic downturn exacerbated by the global Covid-19 pandemic, has not spared any of our roles from the onslaught.

More and more people are finding it hard to pay for their Municipal accounts as a result of employment redundancy. This has amplified the pressure on Otjiwarongo Municipality to continue providing the essential consumer services while balancing the need for business continuity.

Unlawful Land Grabbing

Land grabbing in Otjiwarongo has been an issue of concern for the last five years and council has taken a bold step to mitigate the situation in planning for about 16 townships establishment through the formal process to obtain townships board approval since 2018 to deliver about 4 000 mixed-use erven.

The formal process has been exacerbated by the increasing population growth rate in the town where demand for formalised land is greater than the supply thereof. However, Council did not have an alternative plan for a situation that was as well not foreseen. The question has always been on how to avert a situation that currently surpassed demand therefore translating in slow informal land delivery process coupled with the pressure by the locals to grab land illegally.

Council’s interim mitigation strategies of using law enforcement to curb land grabbing have not proven successful due to lack of adequate manpower to respond and monitor the situation. Law enforcement has complained of inadequate resources to respond to the numerous and frequent call-outs to avert the threats of land grabbing that have become a daily exercise. Equally delays in the formal land delivery process due to the bureaucratic process and quality assurance required for this process at statutory compliance has not made it easier for council to be responsive to the demand being experienced to date.

These and many other elements have now made the situation more volatile and sensitive to the Town’s PESTLE Analysis Framework. It has emerged that this situation is now the most used tool for evoking a Political Expedience therefore threatening the political stability that Otjiwarongo town has enjoyed over the years. Aspiring political parties and individual political activists have adopted to use this situation to instigate community members to grab land illegally. In the quest to ease the backlog on delivering of erven, on both formal and informal land, council has come with an accelerated land delivery process (ALDP) ideology that will see some of the processes that have low risk on the legal provisions and spatial planning standards being conducted in parallel while ensuring that quality and accuracy is not compromised.   

Ministerial directive to revise budget

The Otjiwarongo Council as Special Council by way of Council Resolution C7.1/14/05/2020/2nd SCM2020, resolved to approve the Budget and Tariffs for the financial year 2020/21. The approved and gazetted tariffs came into effect 1 July 2020 and residents charged accordingly. Subsequent to billing the residents for the month of July 2020, Ministry of Urban and Rural Development   directed all local authorities to cease implementing the new tariff adjustments effectively from the date of the circular received, due to the current economic and social impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

The Otjiwarongo Municipality complied with to the directive and Council resolved by Council Resolution C7.6/06/08/2020/7th ODCM 2020 to approve the revised Budget and Tariffs for 2020/2021 financial period in terms of Section 83 of the Local Authority Act (Act 23 of 1992) as amended.  This means as of August 2020, residents will be billed according to the previous financial year approved tariff and hence no increase will apply for the new financial year of 20/21. This revised budget and tariffs have had a negative impact on the Municipality’s planned capital projects due to the average downsizing of 5% from a total operational budget of N$143 million to N$136 million.

Would you say you met your goals as the Mayor?

Our plans as a council were and have always been guided by our five- year strategic plan which ended in June 2020, the Strategic Plan served as a blueprint as to where we want to go as a municipality and how to get there. I must emphasise that our annual work plans aligned to the National Development Plans, Ministerial directives and, most importantly, input from all our residents and stakeholders through the media and public meetings extensively continue to be used as a yardstick for fulfilling our mandate as Council. Council also actively played its expected role towards the realisation and tangible successes of the Harambee Prosperity Plan for inclusion of all Namibians and I can unequivocally affirm that the Social Progression Pillar of the Harambee Prosperity Plan under the sub-pillar of ‘Residential Land Servicing, Housing & Sanitation’ is parallel to Otjiwarongo Council’s vision to provide land and housing to the residents of Otjiwarongo and the greater masses.

What development can you say you will be leaving behind when you depart?

Taxi Rank

Serviced Land Development

Otjiwarongo is fortunate enough to be one of the towns with an overflow of serviced formal land. Council made went beyond and above to ensure that the town had enough formal erven for the residents, this is evident in the successful PPPs in land servicing with UNISTRAT Property Developers and UUM which saw the establishment of five new extensions with two of these extensions already occupied and houses constructed by the residents. These extensions will deliver over 1 200 erven including industrial plots at their full completion. Another milestone was the servicing of affordable land in Freedom and Heroes Park and the construction of houses in these areas.

During our tenure Council donated 65 plots to the Shack Dwellers Association. The plots were serviced by the beneficiaries while assistance for services was provided by Lithon Project Consultants and Sondlo Quantity Surveyors, Council assisted with filling and grading of the roads. As Council we note that the significance of the project such as housing delivery lies in the fact that it reconstructs and commensurate a necessary relationship that should exist between government, private sectors and financial institutions.

Anything else you would like to add? Please do

As we approach the end of 2020, it is inevitable that our thoughts will gravitate towards some form of introspection about whether this has been a year during which substantive progress has been made in making Otjiwarongo a better place to live for all its people. Despite numerous challenges we have had, we remain unequivocal that as outgoing Council, we have been firmly on track to accelerate change for the benefit of all our residents. We remained focused in our quest for true humanity and we continued to draw motivation from a perennial well of support from different quarters, particularly the people of Otjiwarongo that our town and our country can only be truly free if all of us enjoy the fruits of liberation.

We want to thank the people of Otjiwarongo for continued support and confidence in our ability  and commitment to improve your lives. Knowing that I will be stepping down, let me congratulate those contesting to be council members, a prosperous tenure ahead and wishing the residents of Otjiwarongo a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year 2021.