KRIESS – Residents of Kriess, a village some 60 kilometres west of Mariental in the Hardap region, have been denied the use of a health facility by feuding political foes – the Landless People’s Movement and ruling Swapo Party.
As things stand, the fully-equipped container clinic’s doors remain closed, as the current LPM-led regional leadership has allegedly refused to hand it over to the health ministry.
This, people familiar with the situation on the ground say, is because Swapo will be credited for the development as the project was initiated during their reign; something that does not sit well with LPM who currently rules the two southern regions - Hardap and //Kharas.
Several Kriess residents who preferred anonymity, alleged that the clinic’s closure is politically motivated.
“That clinic was donated during the period of the Swapo leadership. Since another political party took over, the leaders do not want to be associated with it,” one of the residents alleged.
The container was donated by Namibia Ports Authority through its investment arm, with records showing that N$360 000 was spent on the facility.
The now visibly-deteriorating container clinic is positioned next to the constituency office.
The deterioration of the container even before its use has raised serious concerns among the residents, who fear that this situation may impact the health ministry’s decision to approve it.
They argue that if things are already falling apart and there is no maintenance in place, it reflects poorly on the project’s viability.
The container remains closed, with residents stating that it has been shut since the day it was handed over to the councillor’s office.
The lack of operational clinic facilities has left residents grappling with high transportation costs, especially for those who must travel to the Mariental District hospital.
Fransina Boois, a 54-year-old resident, voiced her frustration, stating, “We are travelling long distances to go to the hospital. If it is not an emergency, you have to pay N$600 to 800 for a private vehicle to go to the hospital and return home. It is too much,” Boois complained.
She added that even when residents call for an ambulance during emergencies, it often fails to arrive on time, leading them to resort to using private vehicles.
She then questioned why the donated clinic remains closed, despite its readiness.
Another concerned resident Patrick Klaasen, supported Boois’ sentiment, asking: “Why do they have to spend too much money to access services that should be available right at our doorstep?”
However, Hardap governor Salomon April - a Swapo member - downplayed the allegations, saying political differences have been settled.
“I want to emphasise that politics should not be a factor in this matter. While there were political disagreements initially, we have successfully navigated through them. The clinic was requested by the Swapo leadership and was received during the LPM leadership. According to the correct procedures, it was supposed to be handed over to the health ministry for personnel allocation,” he explained.
April further clarified that the residents are currently receiving health services through an outreach programme once a month and that the clinic in question will operate as an outreach health facility, not a daily one.
“The initiative was requested by the government through the office of the regional councillor, who happened to be a member of Swapo and was donated by Namport. The LPM received the clinic, and it will soon be handed over to the health ministry. This was merely an oversight from the leadership, not a political issue,” he claimed.
He added that his office has already sent a letter to the health ministry this week, informing them about the impending handover of the clinic.
On the day of the clinic’s handover earlier this year, no political leader showed up for the event, despite an invite being allegedly extended.
When the allegations around the container clinic were put to Paul Isaak, the Gibeon constituency councillor, he refuted that his political party refuse to hand it over, instead asserting that it is the Swapo leadership that is jeopardising the project.
He then confirmed that the container, unfortunately, is empty and had been damaged by rain.
“However, I must clarify that the reason it remains closed is not solely due to political infighting. The primary issue is that the health ministry has not yet provided the necessary equipment, and the facility requires significant renovation,” he said.
Isaak assured the nation that as soon as the required equipment is made available and the renovation is completed, the facility will be promptly handed over for public use.
Edwin Swarts, the control administration officer at the councillor’s office, acknowledged the plight of residents who face difficulties travelling long distances to access medical care, leading to frequent calls for ambulance services.