‘Rundu has fallen and cannot fall any further but rise, learn from the past and be great again.’ These are the sentiments of the town’s Chief Executive Officer Sikongo Haihambo who has been in the hot seat since last year after his appointment into the chieftaincy.
The town has been at the epicenter of dirt in the media, coupled by the snail-pace infrastructure development, refuse removal shambles and inadequate land provision. These are some of the thorny issues hampering the town’s growth.
In recent years, if not water disturbances, then it is rubbish around the streets of Rundu that the residents refuse to adjust to. Illegal dumping sites continue to multiply, while the lack of refuse removal concerns continue to be ignored by the Rundu Town Council.
Residents say despite sending their complaints to the town council, they have not received any joy – even after they were promised that the situation will change-adding that the council only prioritizes cleanliness on the face of the town and not the off the main road. A drive through Rundu will expose reality.
Already in the headlines after residents continue to express dissatisfaction over poor service delivery, the cash-strapped Rundu Town Council is in a cache-22 situation because it owes the taxman, NamWater and a host of other service providers at least N$115 million.
The high water bill is partly due to the fact that a sizeable number of Rundu residents cannot afford to pay for municipal services, especially the elderly.
The Patriot visited the town last week and the situation on the ground. The town received rain early December so the roads are in a terrible state. The gravel in the location has been distorted and ponds are what drivers need to keep watch for. Some of the heaps of garbage was gathered by residents during cleaning campaigns but the rubbish has not been collected.
Residents of Ndama (an informal settlement) have not had water for the past four days (then). Sights of illegal water connections are evident and residents say they are tired of waiting for the council.
Residents have resorted to using the bush when nature calls, but what pains them more is not having water for days and not knowing where to dispose their rubbish when the bins get full and are not collected.
Taking on a council that was already in tatters at the hands of Romanus Haironga and a line of others who have graced the hot seat, the new honcho has become the symbol of hope as residents are now looking at him to see if he can conjure up a plan that can turn the fortunes of the town around. But if Rundu is to return to its glorious days, Haihambo knows very well that rhetoric alone will not bring the much-awaited change that the thousands of Rundu residents are yearning for.
The technocrat is the former Deputy Chief Executive Officer: Operations of the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia and has held several executive positions in State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). He has served as a director on boards of various public and private institutions and is a holder of an MBA Degree and a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
“We have a lot of challenges that we are trying to fix. The same residents who owe the council still need water. Some are connecting water illegally but we still want to sort things out. But a lot has been said about the bad situation in Rundu. Little has been said about how we got here and how we can collectively save Rundu,” said Haihambo.
“We must understand where we come from, not to blame but draw lessons and move forward knowing what has worked and that which will not work,” added Haihambo highlighting that a lot of the current challenges are a result of problems not being finalized in the past and as a result piled up.
The technocrat pointed out that for Rundu to see its potential, change needs to start from the town council offices.
“The staff here needs to change their attitude towards their work. We all need to be on the same page knowing what we are supposed to do. There obviously needs to be a new and right way of doing things and it starts at this office.”
Although residents pay for waste removal services, the town’s contract with the service provider lapsed last year and was never replaced.
“It is simple; we do not have money to put these services on tender. So we are at the moment having private individuals who have volunteered to help clean. One has a bull-dozzer and the other has a tipper truck,” said Haihambo who added that the town council at the moment is doing it with the help of the residents.
But as if the waste problem is not enough, its’ twin issue is the ongoing water crisis in the town that has a river just on the other side.
The early rainfalls over the town have seen two crucial pumps struck by lightning. This has had a huge impact on the water supply of the town since December.
Haihambo understands that NamWater is hard at work finding a remedy to the predicament after already shipping in a temporal pump to help provide water to the town. “It must be made clear that the current water disturbances are in no way linked to the debt we have with Namwater. It is an infrastructure issue.
It happens that some of these infrastructures are just old and we have to fix it,” added Haihambo who also highlighted that illegal water connections add to the fiasco.
Put to him how he plans how to redress Rundu to its potential, Haihambo shared the councils plans; amongst those are plans to rehabilitate the Rundu Beach area which he says would be a major tourist attraction.
The CEO shared that the council is hard at work with plans to introduce pre-paid water meter systems to try and reduce the water debt while looking at measures to service the remaining amount.
The council only has one dumping sight in Kasote and the council believes it is far from residents who wish to dump their own rubbish. For this, the council plans to have extra dumping sights to enable residents to meet the council hallway in refuse disposal.
He also shared plans on making land available as a source of revenue for the council while formalizing the informal settlements and at the same time meeting the needs of the residents. “There is a way to run a town so we need to start using these approaches.
The council needs to make money to meet the needs of its people.” Rundu is one of the fast-growing towns in the country and the ever-growing informal settlements have contributed immensely to the Towns populace. Settlements such as Ndama, Kaisosi, Sauyema and other grow by the day.
“I’m very sure that every day, there is a shack that is built in Rundu so we need to address this.”
As per set-up of the town, the town is surrounded by the fast-growing informal settlements which give the town council’s place to expand a headache. Sharing development plans with The Patriot, the CEO pointed to land behind Ndama as the only available land to develop.
All will not be a walk in the park for for Haihambo who wishes the council will extend his contract to finish what he has started.
“Coming here, I did not expect a quick fix. I was well aware of the challenges that this town face and that it was on its knees. While the government does what it can, I’m positive that the people of this town will make this town great. Give us two to three years.