RUNDU - Since independence, Rundu has seen an influx of people from the rural areas due to lack of development in the areas of both, Kavango East and West Regions and other places.
This has put an extra strain on the town in terms of service provision and the town is struggling to cope with the increased population and the high demand for services. Due to increased urbanisation, the town has seen a mushrooming of informal settlements on the outskirts of the town as land is not available in the town. "What we have observed although we do not have specific figures in terms of how many people are coming in, but if one looks at the figures for Rundu in 2011 we were 63 000 and now we are 90 000 and if you look at that growth its 5.4 whereas the national average is 4.2. So something unique is happening to Rundu, which is not happening in many towns in Namibia," says the towns acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sikongo Haihambo.
Most people coming from villages end up settling illegally on the outskirts of Rundu were they erect their temporary structures. These areas have no services at all. Some would come for anticipation of a better life in town, some may perhaps just be attracted by the town while some come for other various reasons including business and hoping for jobs. "Although we do not have the specific figures as we do not have monitoring systems in place. I can ascribe it to the following, the slow pace at which Nkurenkuru has been growing may have made Rundu more attractive for both businesses as well as residents who want to settle in a particular town, so Rundu still remains the economical centre for the two Kavango regions," Haihambo says.
"And secondly, and I'm not blaming Nkurenkuru, all that I'm citing is that when Nkurenkuru was established as a regional capital for Kavango West when the country started to experience financial problems, government may have wanted to focus on boosting the last born as we like to call it but obviously it could not do justice to that," Haihambo adds.
Apart from people coming from Kavango West and Southern Angola just across the river, there are other people coming from other regions, towns and villages," he continues.
Pandureni Johannes (27), from Ondjofima village in the Ohangwena Region says search for employment brought him here, and he is happy with what he has found as it is better than living in the village. "I came to look for a job and I only managed to get employed as a security guard here in Rundu, and I am staying alone at Sun City informal settlement in Rundu where I have constructed my shack (zinc structure) home and I only visit my village from time to time," Johannes says.
"Urbanisation is very difficult to control because there is a kind of a belief or maybe a myth that when you are in town or city there are better chances to get employment, education for your children," says the Kavango East Governor, Dr Samuel Mbambo. Mbambo notes that Rundu, as an urban centre, is facing difficulty in terms of service delivery as it cannot meet the demand for services. "Rundu has a population of over 90 000 but the infrastructure in Rundu, even of water, are not meeting the demand. This water infrastructure is meant to serve a population less than that of 40 000 inhabitants. Urbanisation is everywhere, some places that I have been to like Russia, India and so on it is the same tendencies that people move from villages to urban centres because they believe and hope opportunities are vast for them and their children. Reverse movement from urban centres to villages is a quite challenging exercise we still need someone who will come up with that wisdom," Mbambo notes.
"From my office, the problems that we face is that when people come from the rural areas with the hope of employment, they stay years without getting any and they end up erecting shacks around the urban area because they cannot afford houses and the town itself is also not coping with the fast increasing number of people and service delivery becomes a problem, unable to provide serviced land and so on," Mbambo says.
"The only thing that brought me here is the search for employment, I wanted to get a job to send money home," says Ndapewa Sipila (57), from Onawa village in Ohangwena Region. "I came here years back and I got a job as a security guard, I live in a shack on the outskirts of Rundu called Sikanduko," she adds.
When many people move to Rundu, poverty starts affecting them and they end up at the governor's office hopping for some aid. "Unfortunately my office does not have a budget to attend to such problems and we send them to the Rundu Urban Constituency office, which also says they do not have a budget to help them in any way. To be honest we have little assistance that we can offer this people in a way that is expected," Mbambo states.
Urbanisation has come to stay and there is no reverse gear, admits the governor. “Thus we must start thinking on how will we cope with it, the most important thing is for those that are at academic institutions to do research that will be able to give us ideas and ways on how we can address the issue of urbanisation”.
Rural migration into the urban centre, in this case Rundu, is affecting the town’s development, specifically the provision of services in general. The town has not prepared for the population size it currently has. "Now you take the population and then take the availability of funds as well as the prioritisation of the funds at your disposal in order for you to do the right thing. I think that is where we have a challenge, have we prioritised against other priorities that the servicing and surveying of land enjoys the top priority," Haihambo says.
The reality on the ground is that Rundu 29 years down the line has a population of 90 000 inhabitants. “The further reality is that we have got no finances and this town does not have equipments to fix roads or anything. However, we are now here and we have to make things happen. So therefore the provision of land is the aspect that we are saying should enjoy priority and the provision of proper and structured development, it doesn't help to say go there and put up your shack there, no,
that is not development," Haihambo adds.
As the first step to eradicating mushrooming shanty towns, the Rundu Town Council have started establishing a buffer line were shacks and unauthorised settlements will not be allowed below that line.
According to the Acting CEO this will go in hand with establishing a reception area were people migrating into town from rural areas and low-income and no income earners will be accommodated before being given land accordingly.
"Yes we have started with land planning, we have contracted a consultant and within the coming two to three weeks, we should be receiving our plans that are developed for us. We are continuously looking at other areas of our town that is now besides what has been given to this consultant on how to prepare our people through the so-called reception area, “Haihambo says.
"So we are going to have the so called reception area, as we speak my team is on the grou
nd to draw what we call a buffer line, a buffer line will physically indicate to the people or give them an impression that that what they are going to do should at a certain area and we will put a process in place where people can come and then we are going to screen them and then allocate land to them at the same time without waiting. We will seek to develop the area on the other side of the buffer line, which is the area that is being secured," Haihambo concludes.