New Era’s Kuzeeko Tjitemisa this week caught up with Omaheke governor Pio Nganate to discuss issues affecting the region’s inhabitants and how he intends to deal with some of these challenges.
KT: It is almost five months now since you were appointed governor of the Omaheke region. How are you finding your new role?
PN: I am extremely humbled by my appointment to the position of a governor and fully realising that this position comes with a lot of responsibilities and expectations from the masses out there who are all having their hopes for a better tomorrow in the person called the governor. I am however happy witnessing some dreams of people being realised and happy with the feedback I am getting from the residents of Omaheke region.
KT: Gobabis, the region’s capital, is widely regarded as one of the least developed towns in the country as far as the creation of jobs and industries are concerned. What kind of economic and social developments can we expect at the town under your leadership?
PN: The fact that Gobabis is regarded as one of the least developed towns in itself is an opportunity and an appropriate field for any development. I had discussions with the youth, the farmers and the business community and noticed the imbalance in development and the imbalance in representation of all the people of Omaheke, in the sense that 99% of the infrastructure in town belong to one sector of the community and they are renting out this infrastructure at very exorbitant prices, and the development is only taking place in Gobabis “proper”, and not in Epako or Nossobville. That needs to be reversed, the playing field needs some leveling and therefore the birth of the incubation hub to incubate young and vibrant start-up businesses personalities with innovative ideas and in accordance with the fourth industrial revolution.
We are to do value addition on our beef, leather; diversify our economy and fight for a share in the marketing of our livestock as opposed to leaving it in the hands of speculators. I want to see the Witvlei abattoir in operation, the tannery and a dairy industry operational in Omaheke. See a functional one-stop truck port owned by Namibians and previously excluded Namibians. I want backyard industries (mechanics/panel beaters, etc.) incorporated into the economic mainstream.
KT: One of the issues facing the region is the illegal fencing of communal land areas, this despite the call by President Hage Geingob for all illegal fences to be removed. What is your office doing to address this thorny issue?
PN: There are a number of Namibians who fenced off huge tracts of land in virgin areas of Eiseb and Otjinene and my task will be to bring them to the negotiation table so that part of these lands will be sacrificed to the many other residents without land since land is not growing in contrast to the population that is growing.
These lands will be turned into small commercial farms that can be developed with agricultural loans from Agribank or the Ministry of Land Reform to invest in developing these farms in order to shorten the queue for resettlement farms and also to bring down the exorbitant prices paid for commercial farms by government.
The absolute cooperation and leadership of not only traditional leaders but also the residents inhabiting these villages that are fenced off by those with might however are needed and I believe too that since the borders of all villages are clearly demarcated, outer fences can be encouraged but the inner fences be done away with since the only persons suffering ares the weak and vulnerable.
KT: Another matter troubling farmers in the Omaheke region is cattle theft, which continues to rob farmers of a livelihood. Apart from your assurance to farmers that the concerns are being addressed, what other tangible measures have been put in place to address/tackle head-on the high prevalence of livestock theft once and for all?
PN: What we have achieved is the establishment of a close collaboration between our region of Omaheke and Otjozondjupa in terms of our law enforcement and also in closing up all loopholes in terms of livestock theft.
What we additionally realised is that some police officers become too comfortable with the community in which they operate and are not helping much in fighting livestock crimes but end up facilitating these crimes; but we succeeded in rooting out some police officers from their previous stations and assigned them new responsibilities at new stations.
What we further need to realise is that these people robbing vulnerable members of our society of their livelihoods are our own children, cousins, wives and husbands and neighbours. We allow them to privatise other people’s livestock and share in the profits thereof, and we must realise that we have a responsibility not to buy the stolen livestock and also not share in the proceeds, but report such activities and discourage these activities from taking place, which brings me to the idea we are now advocating to have police reservists who will be police from the community policing their own communities. We surely also need to restore our moral fabric as a community.
KT: Other concerns in the region are corruption and nepotism, specifically within the regional council and the Gobabis municipality. What is your office doing to address this issue at both levels?
PN: My office has started telling the beautiful story of Omaheke and calling on all to change the connotation attached to both these institutions for attracting media attention for all the wrong reasons.
Yes, we are advocating good governance, accountability, transparency and therefore the encouragement of the media to cover our deliberations so that we do not discuss public matters behind “thick walls” but in the open for all to see.
Those who made or are going to make themselves guilty of corruption, nepotism, favoritism must face the music and individually, since we noticed all over the place that appointing people on no merits is compromising service delivery and denies the broader community of development and personal growth.
We however also encourage communities not to partake in benefiting wrongly and only cry when they are excluded but to at all times keep high morale ground. But yes we will tell our beautiful Omaheke story inclusively and in unison.
KT: The tarring of the 48km gravel road between Du Plessis Plaas and Epukiro Pos 3 was expected to start in 2016 – can your office please provide an update on the latest development on that front?
PN: The road is now long overdue and with every final year we are anticipating the start of it but we are informed by the Roads Authority that all drawings have been done and approved and that the availability of funds is the one standing in the way of the realisation of this road into bitumen; and with the calamities that we had such as the recent devastating drought and now the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all aware that we cannot put too much preaching on government but as a region, although we do have anticipation, we remain comforted that at least government is committed to finalising the Gobabis, Aminuis, Aranos MR91 road from gravel to bitumen.
We remain hopeful and will keep perusing the upgrade of this Plessis Plaas Epukiro road too and I am convinced that next year this time we will be singing another much more beautiful melody about that road.
KT: One project of strategic importance to the region is the aquaculture project at Leonardville. How has the fish farm contributed to job creation and food provision in the region?
PN: The aquaculture project at Leonardville has the potential to diversify our economy in the region and to turn around the fortunes of that sleeping village if we fully maximise on its potential and also see it contribute towards food self-sufficiency for not only Leonardville but the entire region.
The aquaculture farm employs but only three people and I believe with the necessary financial injection and with a consideration of a PPP, that farm can grow to its full potential. We will keep pursuing the Ministry of Fisheries to consider the option of moving this farm into a commercial entity.
KT: Anything you would like to add?
PN: I am building towards a region in which every resident in Omaheke will claim his/her rightful place “under the sun”, in which every ‘Omahecian’ will realise his/her full potential and be given fair and equal opportunities for personal growth and in which every person will be given the stage to make a contribution according to his/her own potential.
My belief is, echoing the words of Julius Nyerere: ‘For every state there are enough resources for every citizen, but the problem lies with the distribution of those resources.’ If we rid ourselves of greed and selfishness we too can take care of our residents in terms of their basic needs and fight ills like hunger, unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment. We will tell our Omaheke beautiful story one day.