Two regional councillors have cried foul, during a meeting with the Roads Authority (RA) held this week in the capital over the priorities some regions are enjoying in terms of road infrastructure development, while others are neglected by the central government.
The Kavango-West regional council chairperson, Joseph Sikongo expressed his dismay over the absence of his region on the list of priority roads for construction, rehabilitation or maintenance of priority roads in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
Sikongo uttered his dissatisfaction during a meeting held with the Roads Authority and members of the public on Wednesday, saying that in the other 13 regions, at least a minimum of four road projects were taking place in each of the regions while none were planned in the MTEF for Kavango-West.
“As of now up to 2023, Kavango-West will not be expecting any road works soon,” said Sikongo, who is also the councillor for Tondoro Constituency, demanding that the construction of more road works in his region start immediately.
He added that he was tired of endless feasibility studies done in his region with little resulting road construction. Now, with the economic crisis, more road construction in his area is completely off the table and yet, studies were done years before the tight budgets with no results.
“We are told frequently that there is no budget or that roads cannot be constructed due to the economic downturn. But the question remains, where is it you get funds for the other regions?” he asked.
While Sikongo acknowledged some of the roads constructed in the region previously, such as the Rundu-Elundu road and graded gravel roads like Harabembe and Kamupupu, Sikongo moaned that the poor road network contributes to it being classified as one of the poorest regions since road infrastructure is a key indicator of development.
“This has also made it difficult for the government to take basic services such as health, education, water, electricity, drought relief (aid) and government institutions such as constituency offices, to the people,” said Sikongo.
In response, Chief Executive Officer of the Roads Authority, Conrad Lutombi said that last year they crafted a strategic plan and invited representatives from various regions.
“After crafting it, we went back to the regions to verify the information we had in our draft strategic plan,” Lutombi said, adding that the Kavango-West regional leadership, did not highlight some of the projects that were critical.
The Roads Authority CEO said added that the leadership was then asked to provide its identified projects in writing and 11 of the projects identified have since been included in the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.
Vetaruhe Kandorozu, the Okakarara regional councillor in the Otjozondjupa Region bluntly complained about how roads funding is unfairly spent by accusing the government of favouring northern regions (Oshana, Ohangwena and Omusati) as priorities for better road development.
Kandorozu charged that all well-developed roads advanced to the level of bitumen that connect growth points and settlements are only visible in the north, while bitumen roads south of Oshivelo only follow major towns where there are major government and private sectors services and areas predominantly occupied by minority white communities.
The Okakarara regional councillor added he was perplexed when he read an online article that the Minister of Works and Transport, John Mutorwa has unveiled plans to only develop roads in northern regions.
The Okakarara constituency councillor claims that insufficient roads development has been implemented by the current government in other areas of the country.
“The roads that we are using are those developed by the colonial regime,” he maintained, saying that the Otjozondjupa Region only got its first bitumen road that connects Otjinene to Grootfontein, passing through Okondjatu, Okamatapati and Coblenz after 26 years, while in the Omaheke Region, the road that connects Gobabis and Otjinene and Gobabis and Onderombapa was only upgraded to bitumen standard after 29 years.
In the Erongo Region, Kandorozu said that no bitumen road was developed to connect people, while the same could be said of Hardap Region.
Similarly, he said that in Kavango-West, the only road developed was from Tsumeb to Katwitwi to Nkurenkuru and to Rundu, while in the Kavango-East the only road upgraded was from Rundu to Ndivundu.
“Zambezi Regions has the same outlook,” added Kandorozu.
“One does not want to pre-empt that the government will not unveil other plans for the northeast, northwest, south, west and eastern parts of Namibia, but I thought Namibia is one country under a unitary state with 14 regions only. Therefore, I am surprised how the government appropriates its budget based on geographical sites,” he lashed out.
Additional reporting: NAMPA