Highs and lows
17 May 2020 | Government
Former Erongo governor Cleophas Mutjavikua bid farewell to his office after almost a decade in the hot seat.
Mutjavikua, who officially handed over the reins to newly appointed governor Neville Andre, spoke frankly about the highs and lows of his illustrious tenure as governor of the Erongo region.
“I am a person who does not beat around the bush. Many people will welcome me moving on, while others may be sad to see me go. Some, especially those who prefer to live in a comfort zone, will say it’s good that I am gone.”
Mutjavikua was appointed by former president Hifikepunye Pohamba on 27 November 2010.
“I received a call from president Pohamba, who instructed me to meet him. I did not know what it was about. I arrived there and after a short discussion, he informed me that I was appointed as the governor of the Erongo region.”
Mutjavikua said his appointment baffled him as he was more of an administrator than a politician. Despite this, he accepted the challenge.
He described his tenure as “very interesting” and said it came with many challenges as well as successes. “It was not easy. I was welcomed and soon discovered that the Erongo region is not a comfort zone.”
According to Mutjavikua, the region is facing myriad difficulties.
“One of the biggest challenges is that our people live in squatter camps. Many are still constructing houses using material that is prone to easily burn. I never took this issue lightly. I am a bit disappointed and regret that I am leaving with this challenge not adequately attended to. As a person who likes to work for the people, I do not feel that I completed the business I set out to complete.”
The other area of concern for him as a governor was the availability of water for residents. “We have a scarcity of water in the region. When there is no rain in some areas, we have to transport water there by trucks. Like for Omatjete, it’s the norm to transport water from Okombahe every day. The provision of potable water in this particular area is another challenge I’m leaving for the capable hands of my incoming colleague.”
Mutjavikua advised his successor to look at how to address the aforementioned issues as a matter of urgency.
“It has always been our position to have a water supply pipeline from the desalination plant stretching from the coast to Omaruru.”
Mutjavikua added that he pushed hard for the desalination plant to be funded to provide more water.
“Water is a challenge, even for the mines, and this issue must be addressed.”
He is also of the opinion that there is ample fertile land along the route to Omaruru, which can be used to establish green schemes.
“I know various studies have been done on the viability of such a project. The one by KFW for example, has some shortcomings. I sincerely hope that my colleague will take it up and ensure that the region has sufficient and cheap water.”
In his various state of the region addresses, Mutjavikua consistently raised the issue of the liberalisation of the water industry.
“Fortunately, the electricity industry has been liberalised. A new law was passed recently allowing more people to generate electricity, but the water industry is not yet there.”
Mutjavikua hailed the fact that the Erongo region was the biggest recipient of Namibia’s capital budget for the past 10 years as one of his biggest achievements as a governor.
“The lion’s share of our capital budget was spent in the Erongo region. Namibians are talking about the container terminal at Namport. This was the first ‘fancy’ project. But it didn’t just happen. There were many challenges and it required a lot of interaction. Coupled with Namport, there is the north port, the oil jetty and the fuel storage tank farm.”
He thanked former Namport CEO Bisey Uirab for navigating the way and for always being cordial and maintaining his cool until the project was up and running.
“That is our contribution to the collective. In civil service, you don’t achieve alone, you achieve in the collective.”
The region also did not have an international airport when Mutjavikua began his first term as governor.
“We worked around that as a collective and today we have an international airport. This facility must be kept busy and we must get more tourists to pass through that entrance. Now, with the Corona issue, tourism will have to overcome many challenges.”
Various stretches of road were also upgraded.
“We had many discussions and planning sessions with officials from the Roads Authority on the way forward and dealt with workers issues. The Swakopmund – Henties Bay road is going to reach Uis within the next couple of months. We also have a 4-lanes carriageway behind Dune 7. When entering Swakopmund you can see that the face of the town has changed completely. We really delivered on some of the capital projects in our region.”
Mutjavikua was also full of praise for the education sector in the region. “Erongo remains in the top 3. The teachers and leadership of education made us extremely proud and enabled the region to achieve a lot. I hope they will keep it up.”
According to Mutjavikua, the health sector and facilities of the region is also setting the pace compared to that of other regions. “I told the minister of health that apart from some challenges at the Walvis Bay hospital, that we have some of the cleanest public health institutions.”
The former governor says he will now find some time for himself. “I will find time for my wife and my children. Very often if you don’t pay attention to them, they will walk a different road. They will keep me very busy.”
Mutjavikua also says he plans on going into business.
“I come from the private sector. I have a few ideas and ventures which are currently running and will focus on them. Erongo is a commercial region, therefore I will be visiting often – as a farmer, businessperson and just to relax. I want to come and sit at the sea without any pre-occupation. Should the president or Swapo feel that they want to deploy me somewhere else, I will definitely comply as a cadre.”
The new governor
Mutjavikua describes the incoming governor an energetic person.
“We already had some telephonic discussions and we will interact a lot. I am available to provide some guidance. I am also going to assist him where he requires help with work that is in progress.”
He asked that the people of the Erongo region render Andre the same co-operation they rendered to him.
"He is young with fresh ideas, so let’s give him the necessary support. I will partially reside in Swakopmund. This means that I will fall under him as my governor. That is the future.”