Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge has become a household name in Namibian politics since winning the by-election at the harbour town earlier this year. Eveline de Klerk sat down with him as he reflects on the last 11 months in office and his current chances of being re-elected in the upcoming regional council elections.
EdK: How would you describe the last 11 months or so as regional councillor for Walvis Bay Urban?
KI: The first few months in office served as a research phase to survey our residents and get inputs from them on how best we can grow the constituency together.
Our tactic augmented awareness on the constituency through genuine transformation, guided by commercial principles rather than short-term political impulses.
EdK: Do you think you stand a good chance of being re-elected, considering the number of candidates also putting up their hands to contest the constituency?
KI: I am contesting to fulfil God’s plan and bring blessings to the residents of Walvis Bay Urban constituency, unlike others who want to come into power by imposing themselves onto the residents of our constituency, led by egos.
Voting for any of those participating against me is equivalent to voting for evil leaders like kings Ahab and Jerobeam, son of Nebat, who brought disaster and destruction upon Israel.
EdK: How is your relationship with other regional councillors, predominantly Swapo, serving on the Erongo regional council?
KI: We strictly share a professional working relationship and nothing more.
It was a wonderful experience working with them for the past few months and I appreciate the guidance they afforded me in various ways to understand the regional council structure better.
EdK: What do you consider as a highlight of your first stint as a regional councillor?
KI: Tabling a motion for the urgent intervention against sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking in the Erongo region.
The motion was passed unopposed and has paved the way for the Erongo Regional Council to develop a regional strategy of action for immediate implementation.
EdK: What do you regret most about the job? Do regional constituencies really speak to the needs of the communities they serve, and what is your experience, compared to what you expect?
KI: I have no regrets about my job at all because I serve the residents of our constituency in the fear of God righteously.
But is clear the capacity to deliver in the Walvis Bay Urban constituency
office before I was voted into office has been hindered by the absence of the discipline of delivery, which entails understanding the need, planning for delivery and making delivery a culture of the Erongo Regional Council system.
Additionally, since the reintegration of Walvis Bay, we have seen meaningful ideas that came out in regional plans, visions and good documents but it ends there because of weak implementation and monitoring.
My expectations have been and remain to adequately serve the residents of our constituency by representing the views and concerns of our community transparently.
EdK: Why should the residents of Walvis Bay Urban put their faith in you?
KI: My principles and ideas on creating an inclusive and safer community should remain the residents guide to put their faith in me.
From racism to biphobia, our community must collectively endeavour to be more inclusive by shifting mindsets and unlearning harmful beliefs.
Every woman and child should be able to walk in the streets of our constituency without fear.
Committees I chair, such as the Constituency AIDS Coordinating Committee (CACOC), the Constituency Development Committee (CDC) and the Constituency Disaster Risk Management Committee (CDRMC) will take helm of these social processes.
EdK: There have been concerns that regional councillors are not financially well supported by central government given other competing priorities. How do you intend to bridge this gap if elected for the next five years and how will you ensure that programmes within your constituency are not compromised due to budgetary constraints?
KI: It is not good for any government to make promises and not put structures in place to solve the countless problems being faced by its citizens.
One very useful and effective strategy that has been used by other nations is the establishment of community financial institutions meant to create, open up and foster entrepreneurship within the nation.
Entrepreneurship is what creates employment in a nation. The stronger and thriving businesses are established, the more employment opportunities are created.
We have started working on our economic transformation policy by coupling institutional reform and private investment, of which our marine reserves could be seen as an investment in future prosperity, rather than a foregone economic opportunity.
Following a fruitful meeting with the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Dr Albert Kawana, I submitted a document to the ministry, proposing the urgent need to establish a fishing bank responsive to the local industry needs, focused mainly towards the development of our community and region at large – more similar to Agribank value addition to our agriculture.
The fishing bank will be established under our Constituency Development Committee (CDC) with a clear mandate to revolutionise the fishing industry value chain by supporting greater economic opportunities for all our residents through growing small businesses and creating more sustainable jobs.
EdK: How can regional councillors play a more active role in developing their constituencies?
KI: It is very important to take note that we only receive N$130 000 annually as Constituency Development Funding, which is a drop in the ocean for a population of over 50 000 residents of the Walvis Bay Urban constituency, so I don’t blame those who are of the opinion that I didn’t do anything.
It is very important to take note that our office managed to supply 6 369 households with food aid, mobilised from the Prime Minister’s office, about 2 050 boxes of 20kg fish donated through private sector resource mobilisation and approximately N$9 million through the Corona Care Initiative.
As regional councillors, we should prioritise stimulating our Constituency Development Committees and come up with more innovative approaches to develop our constituencies.
EdK: In terms of housing and job creation, what did you achieve?
KI: In October, a contractor was appointed to assist the Shack Dwellers Federation with the servicing of their erven in Narraville, utilising funding of N$500 000 from our office.
I am responsible to advise the municipality of Walvis Bay, especially when it comes to matters such as housing and we have been on the forefront of this since I took office but after the municipality became rebellious, we initiated strategies that eventually led to access to shelter and safe housing with proper sanitation and hygiene, especially to those living in backyard shacks, the old compound and other congested properties in the constituency.
Due to Covid-19, we’ve experienced mass retrenchments in our constituency, adding to the existing high-unemployment rate in our constituency and the backlog of unsolved labour cases, dating as far back as 2009.
Employment creation has been topical in Walvis Bay over the past years, and the constituency has been earmarked to become the leading industrial hub due to our strategic location and transport network – but until this day, we are faced with well-educated youth with degrees, diplomas and certificates and a glaring acute shortage of employment.
Our education system has been shunned or designed to churn out masses of graduates who are only skilled to work for someone and unable to create employment.
EdK: Some believe you should have remained an activist, rather than joining politics. What is your take, and do you regret this?
I do not get moved by pedestrian views, as my focus is on the long-term vision, which is to transform our constituency.
By now, I know that whoever talks bad about me is either a beneficiary of corruption or is intimated by how I’m flourishing in my duties. It’s no rocket that party politics is dying in Walvis Bay.
EdK: Do you think your reputation as a controversial leader, as some suggest, including your continued usage of social media to address issues in your constituency, will cost you votes in the upcoming elections?
KI: Social media enables me to communicate directly to the public and accomplish my duties as a regional councillor by interacting and consulting the community.
What is the difference between me preferring social media as a communication tool and those in similar positions who have been using radios or newspapers on a daily basis to engage their communities?
What those with public opinions are missing is that I use social media to capitalise on networking and community-building, aided by data analytics, which guides targeted messaging.