City of Windhoek CEO Robert Kahimise has outlined the city’s future plans, chief amongst those are smart public transport systems as well as public private partnerships in order to service more land and build houses for residents.
The city has been the scene of robust protests and land grabbing due to a lack of adequate housing and service land. Congestion on the city roads has also irked residents who have at times accused the city authorities of failing to plan ahead.
During an interview with this publication, Kahimise shared his plan on how he plans to improve life in Windhoek during his 5-year stay in office.
TP: As CEO of Windhoek, you are at the cutting edge where the problems and demands of a modern city meet. The topics are now more diverse now than a few years ago. For your predecessor, Niilo Taapopi, security, culture and transport were the most critical topics. How do you see the situation for Windhoek today?
RK: Windhoek yesterday is not the same today, and it will totally be different tomorrow and the day after because the challenges are not the same. Being the capital City and the biggest urban centre in the country, everyone’s hope is in Windhoek even when the reality on the ground shows otherwise.
Most people migrate to the City still today hopeful to access job market and other opportunities that are not available elsewhere. This rapid movement of people puts a burden on the City’s infrastructure.
The above scenario has contributed to the City not being able to supply or avail basic services at desired rates including land for housing.
We are intentionally directing all our energy and available resources to formalize and to avail services to the informal settlement. In our efforts to avail serviced land and housing to our residents, we created a department responsible for land, housing delivery and human settlement.
I have come to realize that the biggest challenge is not the “availability of land” but the processes and bureaucracy involved in availing land. Hence we have set clear targets for the next 5 years especially smart partnership (PPPs) in availing serviced land even building houses for our residents.
TP: The urban road network in Windhoek no longer fulfils all the requirements for modern traffic, especially when considering the increased traffic numbers. How is this being addressed?
RK: The reality is that when the City road infrastructure was designed many decades ago, no provision of expansion was put into consideration.
During that era, it was assumed that Windhoek was a place for a chosen few who had the means to settle and live here. However, when Namibia became independent and the movement of people to settle wherever they want was open, it is when it was realised that the planning then did not take into consideration future growth. Today, the cars on our roads are more and this puts pressure to existing infrastructures that is not responding to the growing need.
Our plan is to provide SMART public transport, and the Public Transport Master Plan that was developed and approved during 2013 is expected to be a great relief upon implementation.
This is a 20-year plan that guides and prioritises infrastructure and service provision to develop an affordable, accessible, attractive, efficient and safe public and non-motorized transport system. Emphasis is therefore to rather implement the Public Transport Master Plan above any road upgrading to alleviate congestion.
While implementation is happening, an integration of the above mentioned is needed to form a combined Urban Transport Masterplan.
The plan is already under implementation. First order implementation plans include a proper bus network for Windhoek and an NMT network, with emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle movement.
Non-Motorised Transport or NMT was part of the public transport master plan referenced above. Currently an NMT implementation strategy is being developed by the City of Windhoek in collaboration with the GIZ to enhance pedestrian movement and safety. The strategy includes the feasibility of a light rail connecting Katutura to CBD and Airport, Okahandja and Rehoboth to inner city as well. If realized one day, it will redefine transportation not only in Windhoek but surrounding areas as well.
TP: Does Windhoek need more support from government in tackling its infrastructure tasks, such as expansion of public transportation and housing provision?
RK: Indeed, the pressure on Windhoek infrastructure is wider than it appears. Thus, the government intervention in financing the creation of the infrastructure is of crucial importance. We are grateful that the government through its developmental partners is working on the pilot project on public transport in line with the Master Plan.
Creation of basic services infrastructure including serviced land are the key areas that we need government intervention mostly, it is clear that the demand has surpassed the supply and that calls for a different strategy that will be addressing the shortage and urban migration in the long term.
Although it is a national challenge, Windhoek is under more pressure due to the high rate of migration to the urban centre compared to other towns in Namibia.
TP: What is your plan to bring down irregular expenditure in the municipality?
RK: The City on annual basis puts in place a budget which informs the expenditure, both operating and capital, for the next proceeding financial year. Council has implemented monthly reporting which includes Variance Reporting where actual expenditure is measured against budget and which are closely interrogated within the structures of Management.
This is the Management tool and control measure we have put in place to control expenses against budget and to ensure there is no irregular expenditure.
TP: What measures are in place to prevent fraud and corruption in the municipality?
RK: There are number of initiatives that the City has embarked on. Amongst the more important ones are the following:
The appointment during the 2017/2018 financial year of a Chief Internal Auditor
ERM (enterprise risk management) strategy with Risk register to be managed by HODs with CEO being accountable to Council
The development of Conflict of Interest Policy during the year
Ongoing training and emphasis on a culture of honesty; integrity and responsibility within the City
Continuous reshuffling and redeployment of key resources within the City
The introduction of the Public Procurement Act also assists the City in this regard
TP: Do you think you can address all the challenges facing the City within five years or will you need more time?
RK: It will be farfetched to think of addressing challenges of the City in the span of five years because they keep changing and evolving. However, we have captured the known and anticipated challenges including our response and interventions over the next 5 years in our Transformational strategic plan.
The City’s challenges need concerted efforts from all stakeholders to be addressed successfully, and the City of Windhoek being the local authority in a third tier GRN need central and regional government support to sustainably deal with issues of services, land and housing. We have successfully worked with the private sector as with other LAs through PPPs (Public Private Partnerships).
TP: How is CoW’s financial position and what measures are in place to improve it?
RK: The issue is not much about the “deficit” we have had over the last few years (though we are working on reducing it) but of accountability in handling billions of public funds entrusted to Council.
We recruited two CAs, the senior one being in charge of Finance dept. and the young one being tasked with financial reporting.
The overall objective is to achieve a “clean audit” and secondly zoom into our debtors book, stop any financial losses/ bleeding and create sustainable revenue streams that would make the City a financially sustainable public institution. Hopefully, within the next 5 years we would get the City credit rated and raise capital through bonds.
TP: Government entities are one of the biggest defaulters when it comes to paying for services. How are you dealing with this?
RK: The City services should be paid regardless of who the defaulter is. This is a public entity expected to provide unhindered services to the public and to be sustainable, we need to collect what is duly owed to us, in order to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. In other words, all measures that are being employed to ensure efficient collection of debts will be applied across board and this is a process we have started already.
One painful but effective measure, is to disconnect the services to force the defaulter to pay outstanding debts instead of encouraging them to accumulate debts that will take time to settle.
TP: Let’s talk about investors. In Windhoek, quite a number of international investors are currently investing in Windhoek.
RK: Windhoek is the capital and the most populous city in the political stable Namibia, and thus most investors find it suitable for investment. It’s the commercial centre of business and administrative seat of government. The city is strategically located in the center of Namibia providing efficient and easy access to other regions in the country as well as to the SADC region and beyond.
The city is well connected to the Trans-Kalahari and Trans-Caprivi highways, which link Namibia with the rest of SADC region, and all major world markets through the deep-sea harbor of Walvis Bay. Windhoek has modern roads, rail and airport infrastructures and is thus easily accessible on land via well maintained road and rail network as well as by sea via its Walvis bay port. The city is:
The least expensive city in Southern Africa – Mercer Annual Cost of Living Survey 2016
The fourth best city in Africa for overall quality of living – Mercer Quality of Living Survey
The second cleanest city in Africa overtaken by Kingali
The third safest city in Africa, 2nd safest in SADC – Aegis Advisory (web: strategicnskindex.com)
Windhoek offers investors
Excellent medical services
Property rights protection
Trainable and ample supply of labor
Low cost of doing business
Good housing and recreational facilities