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Bwabwata communities divided over regional borders

2024-02-27  Albertina Nakale

Bwabwata communities divided over regional borders

KATIMA MULILO - The Khwe community living within the Bwabwata National Park bordering the Kavango East and Zambezi regions are divided over regional demarcation.

There are two groups of San-speaking people who are seemingly divided over the regional demarcation, with some demanding the borderline to be extended to Kavango, while others want it to remain within the Zambezi region.

One such group held a peaceful demonstration last week to demand that the government shifts the borderline to Kavango East - saying they are left out in terms of service delivery such as health, water and power services.

Speaking to New Era on the issue was Boster Mautu, a community activist around Chetto, Omega 3 and Masabo last week. He accused the Zambezi regional leadership of ignoring their plight for basic services since the delimitation commission’s findings
dating back 2013, which saw the creation of new boundaries between the Kavango East and Zambezi regions.

Mautu said poverty is very high within their community, as they have no income- generating projects targeting them.

Therefore, the community demands that the border be shifted from Chetto to Kongola so that they can have access to basic services from Kavango East, like other Khwe communities. Those affected feel Divindu in Kavango East is even nearer to them instead of travelling for services to Katima Mulilo, which is some 170 km away. “We started talking about this issue some 10 years back when government was consulting to split the Kavango region into two. We look at the Zambezi regional leadership, but they have failed to deliver services to us as Khwe people. If you look at Khwe people living in Kavango East at Omega 1 and Mutiuku, they have government services such as clinics, a police station, schools, water and electricity. They also have an agricultural office with a tractor. They have livestock, and are engaged in farming while we are left out,” he moaned. To date, government has provided a clinic and police station at both Omega 3 and Chetto. Equally, Chetto has a combined school, as well as a network tower and a home affairs extension office, where newborns can be registered to get full  birth certificates.

Despite these services, some community members in the areas of Chetto, Masabo and Omega 3 feel left out, saying Zambezi’s regional leadership failed them when compared to the same marginalised people living in Kavango East. “Our school - Ndoro Memorial - has no potable water and electricity. We are drinking water that’s not fit for human consumption. The colour looks yellowish. The ministry of health came and ran some laboratory tests, and said the water is not fit for human consumption. We are about 170km to Kongola, and got to Choi for a clinic. The community is suffering,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, another Khwe youth
activist representing another group, Kaseba Khumalo, vowed that as San-speaking people, they want to be residents of Zambezi, and wish to move nowhere.

However, he said they want the borderline to be shifted back up to Divundu. “On the 2nd of May, we the Khwe youth and some village elders had a meeting with the Zambezi governor in Katima Mulilo to raise our concerns. One of the major concerns was that we want Zambezi to be extended up to the Divundu checkpoint, and we asked him
to make Bwabwata a constituency. He promised to help us. We, the youth, covered all the areas in Bwabwata to confirm if they support the idea. The whole Khwe community accepted that we want to fall under Zambezi since they respect our human rights and park regulations, unlike leaders in Kavango East,” Khumalo added. Mautu said many elderly people are dying at home due to diseases such as malaria as they cannot access health facilities due to long distances. They had raised these issues with Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu last year, who promised to forward their concerns to the relevant authorities.

Sampofu last week admitted there are challenges of water and electricity at the Ndoro Memorial School.

“They staged a peaceful demonstration at Omega 3, demanding services. They want the school hostel at Ndoro to open. It’s true; I visited the school hostel 2022. We are aware that the school has no water and electricity. The ministry of education is working on it to ensure services are offered,” he responded.

Regarding their demand for the borderline to be shifted to Kavango, Sampofu said everyone has freedom of movement and association in Namibia.

“We don’t prohibit anyone from moving. People can move on their own from region to region without changing the borderlines. The demarcations are there. We can’t move the regional boundaries, unless it’s the delimitation commission. We have no right to tell people to move. They can move to any region they wish,” the governor reiterated.

The Bwabwata area starts on the banks of the Kavango River, just east of Divundu, and ends at the Kwando core area, west of Kongola. This area is part of the Bwabwata National Park.

The boundary between the Zambezi and Kavango regions lies roughly in the middle of the strip.

2024-02-27  Albertina Nakale

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