New ball game for ‘Congo’
Okahandja Mayor Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou says his background as an international footballer has uniquely prepared him for the challenges of being the political head of the ‘Garden Town’.
The former Brave Warriors captain spoke passionately about what it is like to play on foreign fields, while 80,000 opposition fans cheer on your demise.
It was during his time in football that taught him discipline and gave him the ability to rise again and again, after suffering defeat.
Hindjou is a well-known figure, who represented his country more than 69 times on the football field, and is the nation’s most capped player, after representing the Brave Warriors for 10 years.
“I was one of the people who brought Okahandja on the map; I was a player from Okahandja in the national team. Honestly speaking, football prepared me. I put my body on the line for this country. I played football matches in 40 degrees heat in Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal and Gabon, just to mention a few. I put my body on the line in Gabon, Libreville. You go to Monrovia, Liberia, you go to Cairo, Egypt, you go to Joburg, South Africa, you go to Maseru, Lesotho, you go to Maputo, Mozambique, standing in front of 80,000 people, singing your national anthem. These things prepared me. As captain of the national team, bringing the team together after a defeat, trying to make them see, that it is not how hard you fall, it is how you stand up. I believe in collective work, I believe in listening to other people.
“I am also coming from a business background, as an entrepreneur, but the thing that has prepared me well for my current post, is football. Football has given me confidence, because I have been with many people, and I captained also the national team. I have met many people, high-profile people in Namibia, Africa and in the world, and that prepared me very well, and has made things easier for me.
“And if I was not a well-known figure in Namibia, maybe today I was supposed to be a ‘big head’ mayor, and when you want to see me I would say: ‘No, call me’ or ‘make an appointment, but because I have gone through the fame, the title is nothing for me. I am a down to earth person; I am a normal human being, because I am prepared by football.”
He said that business had also prepared him well to be a better person today.
“My personality is the most important thing. Sometimes I am using my own money to assist the community. Maybe someone will hungry, maybe someone will not have transport money or someone will say their kids do not have uniform for school. They are coming because I am a son of the soil, and I always assist them.
“I am not big-headed because of this position… I want to serve my people, and I do not want to disappoint them. I don’t want to disappoint the president, I don’t want to disappoint the Honourable Minister of Rural and Urban Development Sophia Shaningwa and I don’t want to disappoint the SWAPO Party. We are here as the councillors to deliver and if we deliver, everyone will be happy.
“We must bring factories to Okahandja to create employment for our youth. It is very important, we need to look after our youth, and definitely they are the leaders of tomorrow. We have to work hand in hand to take Okahandja to the next stage.”
He said all seven councillors, including the five SWAPO ones, were working hard to achieve this.
“We are five from SWAPO, one from UDF and one from DTA, but we are all trying to work very hard for the people of Okahandja.”
This week, when the Windhoek Observer spent time at the mayor’s office, his open door policy was there for all to see. There was a constant stream of unannounced visitors, and Hindjou turned no one away. He was overjoyed when he received the news that President Hage Geingob had been announced as ‘The World’s Best President’, and expressed his hearty congratulations to the Head of State, before diving straight back into the interview
“You see, the mayor’s job is not a permanent position. I come into the office at the call of my personal assistant, the support office of the council, who inform me of any meetings or concerns from the public. But definitely I make time, even if I don’t have meetings planned, just to come and see, and people queue to see me.
“The reason is they know I am from Okahandja, I am a son of the soil, and therefore they are so open approaching me. They know they are going to the boy that grew up in front of them, the boy that they played with, that they ate out of one plate with. It is a difficult job, lots of papers, lots of complaints, lots of ideas that are coming from the public, because we are here to Harambee, we are here for the betterment of Okahandja.”
“No problem is too big or small, ranging from electricity or water issues, to families who have had their services disconnected, after the death of a loved one.
“As the political head of the organisation, I talk to the CEO to see how we can assist these people, because there is no way that someone can pass on and there is no water and electricity at the house. Then I will use my political power to say ‘no let’s open this water’, but then I will inform my council when we meet, to say ‘this and this house had a problem, and we tried to help’, at the end there is no mayoral, there is a council resolution, but as a political head I need to make some decisions for my councillors, because if there is death today, we can’t wait for the next council meeting in two weeks. We take a decision and then inform them. Then you have your water problems, you have the dirtiness of Okahandja, those kinds of things. You have a shortage of water, informal settlements, those kinds of things; those are the problems that are coming every day.”
‘Service delivery machine’
Asked about his vision for the town and where he sees Okahandja developing during his tenure, Hindjou said his vision is Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan.
“That is the vision we are having; that is the governance tool of the government. We need to adhere to it, especially Chapter 5, pillar number three, ‘social progression. It is very important, and talks about land servicing and housing delivery. That is the most important thing, why we are here.
“We are not a money-making machine, we are a service delivery machine. We have to give more services to the people, and that is the vision. One day when I leave these council chambers, we want to say that we serviced land in Okahandja; we gave shelter to the needy people in Okahandja; that is the most important thing. We want to say that after our term, Okahandja is clean.
“We want to say that we have given sanitation to the informal settlements. After our term, we want to say that we have given water to the residents. We already got something right, we are electrifying the whole of Okahandja with the agreement we signed with CENORED; that is really a very good thing that we did.
He said that in terms of CENORED, he wanted to give a special word of thanks to Mines and Energy Minister Obeth Kandjoze for assisting with the deal.
“He really helped us a lot.”
Among the other plans for the town was the moving of the dumpsite.
“We are also planning to move the dumping site, because it is really a problem to the society and a health hazard. Currently, we have to act very fast, before it gets out of hand.
“We are also working hard on the sewer ponds. Currently we are trying to rehabilitate them, but definitely we also need a bigger assistance, especially from business community or the central government or the regional government.
“Another development that will lift the face of Okahandja is the Osana development, which was launched by the president a fortnight ago. It is a housing project that will bring in phases 11,000 houses and especially for the men and women in uniform. I think that development will change the image of Okahandja.
“That is why I want to encourage the entrepreneurs of Okahandja, the business community of Okahandja, to go and find out ways to get subcontracting work from the main contractors.
“Education is very important and very close to my heart, and currently all in the country are approaching the Grade 10 and Grade 12 exams. I want to encourage the youth, the students of Okahandja, to do well this time around to do well, because we want the best in the region, under the leadership of Otjozondjupa Regional Governor Otto Ipinge, who is preaching that we must be the number one. So to our students, please try your level best this time around.”
“We want to see a better road network in Okahandja, where there are no potholes. We want to bring, with the regional council, through to the central government, a college to Okahandja, if not a university, and vocational training for the people of Okahandja. And the most important people we are thinking about in that regard are the youth.
“We want to bring hospitals to Okahandja, private hospitals, because people are taken from here to Windhoek. These are the things we are looking at. It is very important, that after our five-year term, we can walk out while saying that Okahandja has changed.
“But the previous people, starting with councillors and mayors of the town, we have to say hats off to them, because they did wonderful work. Okahandja was not like this. After independence, we were a very small town, but today we are sitting with a population of 30,000-plus. That is a very good number and the development we are having in Okahandja, we are having a mall, we are having a brewery, we have Namgem, we are having CENORED, we are having Meatco, we are having Beefcor; those kinds of developments we are having in Okahandja, is because of the previous regimes that were here, we have to applaud them,” Hindjou said.
He said the most important thing about the town was that it was “best located.”
“We are next to Windhoek. There is a dual carriage way coming through here. People want to live in Okahandja and drive to work in Windhoek. That is an important attraction. The land price in Okahandja, the low crime rate in Okahandja; those are the kinds of things that attract investors to come to a town.
“We have a dam, and we are praying for rain, as all people in Namibia are doing right now, but when they want to invest, they want to know if there is enough water. Is there a strong electricity connection? And those kinds of things, Okahandja already possesses.
“No one wants to live far from Windhoek.”
Asked what kind of community issues he is passionate about and how he is tackling social challenges in the community, Hindjou said shelter for the entire town’s residents is “very close to my heart.”
“We know were are not going to give thousands of houses to the people, but at least I will be a happy mayor, if during my tenure as a councillor of this town, we service 200 or 300 plots, so people can have houses.
“You see, you get people who have been working for the last how many years, but they are still renting, and if you give someone a house, they will never forget the day they receive it. The other thing is to bring water closer to the people, especially in the informal settlements.
“The other thing is to bring electricity to the people, even to those living in a kambashu.
“But for all these things, we need a very clean environment, with no hygiene issues and health hazards. We need the Okahandja community to live in a very clean environment.”
Tackling youth unemployment
Asked why people should invest in Okahandja, Hindjou said the most important thing for businesspeople is to know how cheap it is to invest in the town.
“When you come with the best proposal to set up a manufacturing plant here, we are not here to kill you or make things more difficult. The most important thing is that we have the youth that are unemployed and when we give you land, we are going to give you a reasonable price for you to come to put up your factory here. The building materials, you will find them here and buy them here to add value to this community. You don’t have to drive to Johannesburg to find them. It is important for the investors to know that.
“In terms of electricity, CENORED, which is a powerful tool, is in bed with the Okahandja Municipality, supplying a top quality electricity connection.”
Hindjou said the councillors were working with municipality’s Chief Executive Officer, Martha Mutilifa, who was responsible for implementing the decisions of the council.
“My term as a councillor is being driven by my desire to see a better Okahandja. I want to see that people live better. I prefer to be called Congo, because titles for me are nothing. They call me Congo, because they know me as Congo here.
“What drives me is my people that are having problems, the people that come without an appointment to my office, I always tell them to sit down and tell me what their issues are. They are coming here because they know I am from here. That is why I am trying very hard to make changes in peoples’ lives.
“The only thing that I am praying for, even if it is not during my time, is for mayors to be given executive powers. That is the most important thing. If mayors have these powers, things will be much easier, because if things fail here in Okahandja, who will be blamed? The mayor will be blamed and yet the post of mayor has no authority to decide or act.
“I can get call from the president, I can get a call from the minister, because I am the political head, but I cannot stand up and decide for city that I am leading.
“And remember, I am following the SWAPO manifesto. SWAPO is ruling in this Okahandja Municipality. I need to follow the party manifesto, because SWAPO is talking about service delivery, especially the First Citizen of this country is talking about implementation. I am coming from that school, and that is why I have to work extra hard. I don’t want to please myself. I am a foot soldier of the SWAPO Party, because they put me here. If Congo fails, SWAPO fails, and I don’t want that to happen. The five SWAPO people I am having, they are working very hard to achieve, but in the council house, we are not talking about politics, we are talking about the benefit of the people of Okahandja.”
He said that as a SWAPO municipality, they work very close with the party’s district office, as well as with the regional coordinator of the SWAPO Party.
He said sport development was a “very serious thing”.
“We can use sport to tackle the unemployment rate and uplift the youth. How many teams do we have in the premier league in rugby? How many sporting teams do we have in the first division? Take football, if these codes were professional codes, if people were to get paid, how many youth can be employed? You understand what I am saying? That is the tool we can use. Football has been used to bring peace to those in countries that are fighting civil wars.
“We need to use sport, especially in Okahandja, where we have a football team called Spoilers, playing in the first division. We have to rally around Spoilers, and now we have another team, the Military School team that gained promotion to the first division. We have to support these teams. At the end of the day, they also do us a favour as the council, they take youth away from the street, they take youth away from alcohol abuse and drugs. This is why as a council, we need to support these people, but how do we support these things? We need to improve our facilities, the infrastructure, to attract competitions to Okahandja.
“When we have better facilities, we can attract competitions and people can see the value that football can bring. When you have teams playing here, say African Stars and Spoilers, the memes that are selling outside there; that is the value that sport can bring – tackling the youth unemployment rate and poverty, as well,” Hindjou added.
“We are here for the people, we have an open door policy, because at the end of the day we have to do this collectively, and I have to deliver. If I don’t deliver, I am failing SWAPO and I am failing myself. The community of Okahandja should remember that we will work extra hard to make this town a better place.”