By Timo Shihepo & Lahja Nashuuta
RUNDU, the capital of Kavango East region in north-eastern Namibia, came to life when it hosted the country’s 27th independence anniversary celebration on Tuesday, March 21.
President Hage Geingob was joined by former presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba as part of a multitude of important guests who graced the town to celebrate yet another milestone for Namibia.
Rundu is often not acknowledged for the significant role it played during the liberation struggle of Namibia. Very few make reference to the fact that the people of Rundu and surrounding villages were fenced off from the rest of the country and their movement restricted by the authorities during those years.
The atrocities against the Kavango people were mainly committed because Rundu was mostly used as a gateway by those who wanted to join the liberation struggle, escaping the country through Rundu because of its proximity to Botswana and others would cross the Kavango river northwards into Angola.
Despite their absence, many foreign leaders among them Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Donald Trump of US, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Justin Trudeau of Canada, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and Xi Jinping of China sent their independence good wishes.
Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia, DR Congo’s Joseph Kabila, king Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and United Nations secretary general António Guterres also extended their congratulatory messages.
In his address, President Geingob noted that independence stems from an innate desire for people to exercise their free will in order to pursue their aspirations and determine their own destiny.
“Twenty-seven years ago, on the 21st March 1990, Namibia was born; born into freedom and sovereignty; born with the legal right to determine its own destiny and that of its people.
“That is what our forefathers bled and died for. So, we have a right to recognise this day, we have a right to celebrate this day, because never again shall the sovereign people of Namibia be restricted by the wicked chains of colonialism; never again shall the sovereign people of Namibia be engulfed by the hateful flames of apartheid,” he said.
“The very fact that we celebrate this day as the day we attained our freedom means that we must also celebrate the peace we enjoy, since the two are inseparable.”
The President also cautioned Namibians to be wary of “centrifugal forces that are intent on destroying what took us so many years and so much blood, sweat and tears to build.
“It is easy to destroy but difficult to build. If we allow Namibia to be torn apart by malicious elements, then this beautiful land of ours will struggle to recapture its pride and glory.
“So when we talk of the concept of Harambee and peace, it should not be scoffed at or ridiculed; rather it should be seen in the context of promoting oneness of the mind and a concord amongst our people in order to safeguard our sovereignty.
“It puzzles me when I see that there are Namibians who are intent to see the Government of the day fail, even to the point of wishing for some kind of calamity to take place and jeopardise our plans to take Namibia forward.”
He added that: “We are aware that after 27 years we still face many uphill challenges, most specifically with regards to our socio-economic architecture.
“Poverty is a scourge that continues to wreak havoc in our lives, because if one Namibian is poor, then we all are poor and we will all pay a price for that.
“What I am referring to in this instance is abject poverty and not a Utopian existence in which we are all millionaires and equal.”
Rundu Mayor Verna Sinimbo earlier told The Southern Times that it was humbling that her town was given the opportunity to host the main event in the national calendar.
Economic standards at the town located on the banks of the Kavango River on the border with Angola have improved significantly since independence.
“We have institutions that are training teachers, and nurses. We have working people that are spending their money in this town. We don’t rely on tourists and people that pass by but we have our own buying power. So business-wise the town has been rated good and there are more than promises to come in and boost the economy of our town,” said the mayor.
Rundu recorded major progress in terms of infrastructure development. These include modern roads, as well as water and electricity networks.
And the most recent development at the town includes new housing developments which created new suburbs such as Queens Park, NHE, Millennium Park, and Rainbow village all fitted with modern amenities.
But like other towns on the African continent, Rundu is struggling to cope with increasing urban migration – driven by the influx of people from rural communities hoping for a better life in urban Rundu.
Sinimbo said the influx of people to the town has placed a huge burden on the town’s efforts to provide essential services to residents.
The mayor said migration has contributed to high demand for housing and other basic services that the town council caters for.
In order to remedy the situation, the Rundu Town Council has allocated land for new townships to be established. “We have also allocated 1,000 residential plots for development by private companies as part of the public-private partnership.”
Other major challenge facing the town, according to the mayor, is waste management that came with urbanisation. “The problem is that people move to town from different ethnic groups and the mindsets are not the same. Therefore, the town council has a lot of work to do, including creating awareness among the people to change their mindsets to dispose waste in an amicable way,” she said.
Sinimbo said the town is in the process of entering into agreement with some local companies to help with collection, disposal and recycling of waste. Other efforts to keep the town clean include the recently launched clean-up campaign by the Office of the Mayor.
The mayor also invited Namibians from other regions and foreign nationals to the town. She pointed out that the town is strategically located for all cross-border business from Angola, Botswana Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“We are also looking for investors to tap into our natural resources such building the waterfront along the river,” she said.