Residents of the Omatelekelo village in the Ogongo constituency are forced to risk their lives every day for the lack of a proper footbridge on the Calueque-Oshakati canal.
This happened after a businessman in this Omusati region area reportedly removed a metallic structure, which served as a bridge.
Residents, including school pupils and the elderly now make use of two logs, which are dangerously positioned, to get over the canal.
A social media video footage showing an elderly woman being assisted to crawl over the logs and cross the canal went viral this week, much to the chagrin of Namibians on social media platforms.
It has since emerged that businessman Gideon Nambala removed the local footbridge from the area in 2018 and installed it closer to his home. Over 168 households at that village are now affected by the situation. The metallic structure was designed for villagers to cross the canal as well as for purposes of pumping water for animals. The businessman yesterday admitted to removing the footbridge, saying it was stationed far from the community, hence he brought it closer to the people. “That metallic bridge was far from the people and was not being used by many. I removed it, modified it and brought it closer. I did this for the benefit of our people,” he explained. He further questioned why people are only going on about the matter now when he had shifted the bridge two years back. “I was approached by the traditional authority headman to explain why I did it and I told them I did it for the good of the people. They have understood clearly,” he said. Nambala, who is also a poultry and horticulture farmer, said those who are against his business successes have blown the matter out of proportion. Speaking to New Era yesterday, the councillor of Ogongo constituency Wilhelm Iyambo confirmed the incident, saying Nambala removed the footbridge in 2018 and placed it closer to his home. Iyambo said that he has made an attempt to report the matter to the Namibian police in the area and was informed that the right person to file the case against the businessman was the village headman. “I have informed the police personally immediately when I learned about the matter. However, I was advised to tell the village headman to open a case because he was the right person. I did tell him and I am surprised that, there was no case filed up to now,” he said. “The regional council is informed and well aware that our people are at risk and no one wants to be accountable for the repair.” Iyambo further explained the situation has now prompted people to put up their own makeshift bridges mostly made up of logs, at their houses, which is a risky affair. The acting headwoman and village secretary Letisia Andjene told New Era that the village made a decision that each house contributes N$50 to reconstruct a new bridge and so far they have collected N$1 600. Andjene said there are 168 homesteads in the village but she cannot recall the exact number of how many contributed. “That crossing bridge at the canal is not only being used by elders. Everyone in the village use that area, including our school children. That is why we are contributing to reconstruct the bridge to make sure no one drowns in the area,” she explained. However, the regional governor Erginus Endjala said only proper footbridges should be erected in the area. “I am strongly discouraging that (usage of logs) because people are risking their lives. Our people do not want to comply. That is illegal and there is no justification on that. The design (of the footbridge) is made with the provision of crossing,” Endjala explained.