Hardap Region embraces Independence, explains developments

The Hardap Region has the honour of hosting the 22nd Independence Celebration come the 21st of this month and in that breath, we held a wide ranging interview with the governor on a number of developmental issues included on Tipeeg, decentralisation and Vision 2030.

In response, the honourable Governor, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa poured her heart out on some successes and challenges the region faces, which need to be taken into serious consideration. A time has come for Namibians to start walking the talk and serve the people of this beloved country in earnest and sincerity if it is to move forward.

The time for outsourcing blame is gone and we should be asking ourselves how long the people can be patient for the biblical ‘Cannan’. We have the document and the resources and what is missing is the auctioning part.

This interview should be seen and taken as a route marker asking us to be relevant in every aspect. We should remember that we can no longer take people for granted.

PF: Twenty two years of development, how do you view the progress made by your region?

KH: First of all, my sincere appreciation to the Prime Focus magazine for your interest in the development of Hardap Region. I am happy to share with you and the nation at large on the developments that have taken place in the region at all spheres of life since 1990, be it socio-economic, political, physical, environmental or institutional, to mention but a few. Before Independence, institutions like Hardap Regional Council was non-existent until in 1992 with the enactment of the Regional Councils Act of 1992.

The creation of the region councils through the Regional Councils’ Act, Act 22 of 1992 in itself was a huge achievement; bringing the Government closer to the people. The Act empowered (and still does) the Regional Council to plan, co-ordinate and develop the region, which comprises of six constituencies and all of them have up and running offices, with staff members, providing vital services to the communities.

For the past 20 years, free and fair elections have taken place in the region for all tiers of Government including presidential, national, regional and local authority levels without any violence and intimidation. The region’s inhabitance has demonstrated political maturity in its diversity.

PF: What are the challenges facing the inhabitants of the Hardap Region currently and how do you plan to address them?

KH: In as much as we are loudly voicing the strides achieved in the region, we have to be honest enough to take note of the following challenges, which require our bold and continued leadership: unemployment; domestic violence and crime; low performance rates by Grade 10 & 12 learners in our region; unequal and skewed regional allocation of the ministerial equity trust funds.

On unemployment:

Unemployment is one of the greatest headaches for governments worldwide. Now the question we should be posing to ourselves is, “What has the regional government done to create an environment where job-creation can take place?”

In terms of addressing unemployment, the Hardap Regional Council realises the importance of propagating and promoting the concept of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It is only through self-employment opportunities that we can be able to promote social welfare amongst our people. For this to take effect, the HRC has introduced micro-financing grants on an annual basis across the constituencies.

People with viable and sustainable projects are financially supported by the Hardap Regional Council to create the necessary business environment for job-creation. Therefore, the Council has planned for SME parks for Gochas, Gibeon and Mariental, whose actual funding has been included in the 2012/13 financial year under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Under the business support program by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, consultants have been appointed to provide business-supporting services to our unemployed youth, in the form of business development, financial management, marketing and many other business elements.

On domestic violence and crime:

The mushrooming and uncontrollable business operations of shebeens in our communities have unequivocally resulted in the spread of domestic violence such as common assaults, stabbings and the rape of minors in our community. Our social environment has become unsafe and people have turned themselves into drunkards, which consequently result into social disorder and moral degradation.

Therefore, let’s all have a role to play as friends, colleagues as well as the civil society, to ensure a safe haven for our young and future generations and the police must be provided with information about criminal activities by the community members.

On low pass rates by Grade 10 in the region:

Education is the foundation of knowledge generation and development of skilled workforce in any given modern society. In saying this, I seriously decry the results published for the 2011 education year for the Hardap Region and is personally ashamed, not only as the highest political leader of the region but as a parent. If we envision the dream of producing skilled graduates for the region, the current status quo will require a vigorous turnaround strategy.

On unequal and unskewed regional allocation of ministerial equity trust funds:

Delivery of services such as water, electricity and sewerages at massive scales by regional and local authorities are severely hampered by biasness and unfairness meted out to certain regions by the ministerial equity trust fund managers. For the past years, Hardap Region has not been on a grand scale to significantly gain financial benefits from the regional allocation. I would, therefore, strongly recommend to maintain the principle of fair equity in the allocation of funds to the region by the equity trust funds.

I would also fail in my noble task not to mention the formulation of our Strategic Plan launched in February 2010, stretching from the period of 2007/08 – 2011/12. The strategic plan document is our compass to precisely direct our development planning efforts towards the agreed strategic themes, objectives and targets as contained in the said document. As I speak, we have registered our Regional Development Trust Fund with the Masters of the High Court as an added vehicle for regional development. The formal launch of this regional trust fund was done last year and was officially opened by the Founding President (H.E. Sam Nujoma).

On the absence of tertiary institutions in the region:

School leavers from the region have limited opportunities to go for tertiary studies due to the absence of institutions of higher learning in the region. Numerous meetings have been held with the custodian ministry for the establishment of a Vocational Training Centre (VTC) in the region. We envisage to upgrade the Keikanachab Skills Training Centre to a fully-fledged VT C.

Through our meetings, commitments were made in the capital development budget for a feasibility study to be undertaken. However, findings of the study have not been made known to us by the HRC yet.

On the regional office park:

Hardap Regional Council is one of the unfortunate regional councils without its own offices. This in itself poses serious challenges for effective and efficient service delivery to the citizens. However, a survey was conducted by the Central Government to determine the office needs of the region. We are waiting for a positive response from the Central Government to fund the construction of the Regional Office Park during the 2012/13 fiscal year.

PF: You have, in the past, expressed concern over the manner in which the land distribution program is handled and propagated that people who have lost land must be the first to be resettled. Has the situation since changed to your satisfaction in the Hardap Region and country at large? If not, what, in your opinion, must be done to solve the land issue amicably?

KH: My stance on the issue of land and the demand for first priority for regional citizenry must be seen and understood in the context whereby the total area of the region is made up of 75% commercial farms, 10% communal farmland and 15% of national nature parks. My position for land claims must not be misinterpreted. However, I have the noble intention to construct correct justification and leveling of the playing field. Surely, you would agree with me that land is a factor of production and without land, we will observe severe patterns of poverty and unemployment.

Yes, a remarkable success has been achieved in terms of resettling landless people in the region. From the number of people resettled in the region (from the 33 resettled farms bought), we have managed to resettle more than 170 people on these farms. From an African extended family point of view, the regional council is proud to say that it has achieved a milestone, which the benefits can take the form of increased agricultural production, better grazing pastures for animals, improved people’s income levels and restoration of people’s dignity through acquisition of land. However, our successes are far out-weighed by constraints, since after people are resettled, technical support and capacity building exercise for new resettled farmers take place on a snail’s pace.

PF: Are you happy with the pace of the implementation of Tipeeg in the Hardap Region and if not, what are the delaying factors for its implementation?

KH: The Tipeeg model, which has been conceived by our Government in trying to address unemployment and poverty is more philosophical in rhetoric as opposed to generating practical outcome and opportunities. It has become more of a social commentary with catch phrases like ‘technical bids’ versus ‘financial bids’ and the Tipeeg committee in Windhoek, in our opinion, lacks transparency and fairness.

Notwithstanding the lack of transparency, there are also unnecessary delays caused in implementing Tipeeg projects in the region. We, therefore, recommend that the regional and local tender boards, which are already empowered by an Act of Parliament (Tender Board Act) must be brought into direct equation and take full responsibility of the procurement function. If this advice is followed, then we will be more confident that the long-waiting periods in awarding tenders will be something of the past and a change in the right direction will anticipated. Failure to do so will further put the plight of the impoverished people into untold misfortunes, misery and greater distress.

PF: Many local authorities in the Hardap Region face challenges, such as the provision of basic amenities such as construction of proper toilets and provision of portable water facilities, especially in places such as Gibeon, Stampriet and Aranos. What is your office doing to ensure that such services are made available to all inhabitants of the region?

KH: I am fully aware of the absence of sufficient basic amenities at the various local authorities. The problem or challenge is not unwillingness and lacklustre conduct of the local authorities but more of capital budgetary constraints. Throughout Namibia, all the local authorities rely on the custodian ministerial budget to develop services. In the midst of these challenges, we have a vibrant Regional Development Co-ordinating Committee structure where we meet on a quarterly basis to discuss and explore alternative funding sources.

PF: How close are you to the people in your region?

KH: Very close. I believe in the open-door policy. I have done a stakeholders’ mapping model whereby I meet them regularly as different segments of the regional population.

PF: In your own way, what model can we apply to expedite development?

KH: From my experience, the only simple model that would expedite and change the development trajectory in the regions is none other than a pro-active and practical model of decentralisation. Regional councils must be fully-empowered by way of decentralised functions to make the practical planning of development and application of funds possible. If the model of decentralisation is not perceived as the right and enabling model, then we can forget about making any meaningful impact in the lives of our people. It is the only model that would give the people hope and confidence in the public life of our people.

PF: Have the poor not been left in a lurch?

KH: No, all our efforts, thoughts and energies are vested into the plight of the poor. People in the rural areas are worse off in terms of income and employment opportunities. Our Government is currently in the process of formulating a rural development policy and strategy to address the challenges of the poor people in the rural areas.

PF: Traditional authorities are known to be a major catalyst of development, especially in rural communities. However, some of the traditional authorities in your region face serious divisions that could hamper development in the region. How are you dealing with this?

KH: It is true that they are major catalysts of development and custodians of State land. The affairs of the traditional authorities are governed by a number of legal instruments such as the Traditional and Communal Land Reform Acts, respectively. Honestly, I am not aware of any major fall-outs or disputes amongst traditional authorities. If there are urgent matters of development, we meet and share information mutually without any suspicion of disunity.

PF: While farming remains the mainstay of the economic activities in the Hardap Region, are you satisfied with the assistance both from the Government and the organised farming sector, provided to small-scale communal farmers in the region, e.g. for most communal goat farmers , there are practically no abattoirs to slaughter their animals?

KH: Not really. We must look for vibrant and workable options to fully commercialise our communal areas. This means that we have to transform them from the level of subsistence farms to the level of export-base farms. To realise this, I am strongly of the opinion that input subsidies must be seriously introduced to our farming community. This subsidy strategy from the Government and established commercial sector must take the form of assisting the small farmers with water and feeding supply materials, marketing subsidy, etc. This initiative must be supported as part of the rural development strategies aimed at improving the livelihoods of the rural poor farmers.

PF: The Hardap Region has great tourism potential. Has it been maximally exploited so far and if not, what is the problem?

KH: There is a draft tourism plan in place for the region, which funding has been sourced from our development partners (Nacoma). Based on the findings of the tourism plan, we will, in due course, undertake a regional stakeholder’s field trip to our coastline to investigate the tourism potentials.

Tourism industry is a very sophisticated and service-oriented industry that requires careful planning and management. Thus, this sector of our economy is mainly dominated by white people. The western part of our region is a tourism attraction area with the famous Sesriem and Sossusvlei.

Cultural tourism is also one area that needs to be explored to the fullest in the region. Right now, we are building a leather tannery at one of our small settlement – Duineveld through Spanish donor fundings. With the assistance from the Nacoma Matching Grant Council, we put up a website as part of the comprehensive marketing of the region strategy. However, I should admit that lots of work needs to be done to bring everybody on board to benefit from the tourism potential that this region offers. Both the current tourism operators and potential operators need to talk to each other to create sustainable competitive tourism industries in the region. Platforms like the regional tourism boards need to be activated to advance and co-ordinate tourism activities.

PF: How does it feel to host the Independence day festivities?

KH: It is an honour. However, it requires team work, careful planning and logistical arrangements to have a complete puzzle. So far, the committee responsible for the organisation of the event is on track and is currently working around the clock to keep margins of errors to the minimum.

PF: Can you gauge the performance of the elected regional councilors in the region? Where are they succeeding and where are they found wanting?

KH: The regional councillors have been taken through intensive induction training on governance structures and legal instruments. To be answerable and be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the electorates, more must be done to revive the constituency development committees. These are the platforms where issues of constituency development is collectively discussed.

PF: In terms of decentralisation of local authorities, are you satisfied? Where are the loopholes in the system, which make policy implementation at times difficult to master?

KH: Yes I am. The greatest challenge is to increase understanding between the roles and functions of the administrative staff and elected officials. There are too many reported cases of interferences by both parties. I am firmly of the belief that this disturbing trend can be resolved through on-going capacity trainings.

PF: The national cake reality or myth, carrot-and-stick analogy, how do you perceive it from your region?

KH: The sharing formula of resources must be based on fairness and need-based criteria. We benefit from the national cake but the implementation roles of the line ministries are not regional in character. That’s why I was more in support of the decentralisation as the simple and fair development model.

PF: Are Governors, Mayors, Councilors, MPs and CEOs over-managing and underperforming?

KH: I DON’T want to choose between the two extremes. However, I am honestly of the view that the offices of the governors must be given greater leverage in terms of power and mandates as well as resource allocations. In utopias of such nature, it is easy to give a proper answer to your question.

PF: Is there something you would want to tell the nation explicitly and implicitly?

KH: As leaders serving the people, let’s inspire our people through good governance and service delivery. Let’s give them confidence and hope so that our democratic system remains stable. If we manage to make this happen, then I am certain that our future generations will take pride in our constitutional democracy.

PF: What is still left on Vision 2030 from your region?

KH: We have the Regional Development Plan, which is aligned and structured along the GOALS and OBJECTIVES of Vision 2030. We follow medium plans stretching for a period of five years (NDPs). Anything that is not catered for in the planned period is carried over to the next NDP period for implementation.

PF: What role do you play in the tender system in regional developments?

KH: The regional council directs and controls the activities and decisions of the regional tender board. As of now, I am planning to introduce certain funding mechanisms to the Tender Board including a regional youth development fund, which must be financed through the awarding of regional and local tenders. Meaning, tenderers will be obliged to commit 5% of the tender amounts to the fund.

Yes, we are cognizant of the fact that there is a statutory obligation to pay taxes to the Receiver of revenue but we should seriously start engaging on the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. Through this, with the regional youth development fund, we can develop, support, promote and fund skills development programs, youth awareness programs as well as small and medium entrepreneurial programs for the youth.

PF: When you finally leave office, what would you want to be remembered for; any legacy you have created in your region?

KH: I would like to be remembered as a leader of substance and a leader who does not forsake principles in times of difficulty; a leader who always leads from the front and expects the best as an outcome. PF