by Faith Haushona-Kavamba
THE Chief Executive Officer of the Rundu Town Council, Romanus Haironga, has hailed the new developments in the town as gateways to the land of milk and honey for the residents of the town.
Making reference to the new Rundu Shopping Mall which opened its doors on October 28 last year, the CEO said the town has been transformed and they have since begun receiving proposals for more developmental projects in the once sleepy town. “Although the shopping mall is privately owned, there are various benefits it has brought for the residents of this town both directly and indirectly. The first obvious benefit is that it has created employment for a lot of youth who now have an income at the end of the day. It has also changed the image of the town in the sense that the town looks better, it entices businesspeople who now see that the town can handle large developments and they want to invest,” Haironga explained.
One of the indirect benefits was the fact that with a large number of people now finding employment, it means that they can afford to settle their municipal bills, boosting municipal coffers and allowing the town council to complete its capital projects.
“The collective debt of our residents is high because people are unemployed; this hampers the projects in the pipeline by the town council because there is not money.
“We have not done a survey yet on how many people are employed, but if you look at in in the sense of a single shop having a minimum of 10 employs, and that is excluding the Shoprite that employs more people, we are looking at substantial number. I acknowledge that the town’s population is bigger, but with those employed it means there are fewer people on the streets and more people can help their families, pay for school fees, buy groceries, among others,” he said.
Much to the delight of Haironga, a substantial number of investors are adamant on erecting a few more developmental projects in the town in the next few years. He noted that so far there are two more malls expected to be built, with one earmarked for Maria Mwengere, a few kilometres outside the town’s CBD.
He also stated that one of the owners of another mall that was erected a few years ago had expressed interest in renovating and extending it.
“The municipality stands to make money from these projects as they will require various council services like water, electricity and sewage,” he said.
Apart from the shopping malls, Haironga also hailed the formal markets like the Rundu and Tandaveka open markets which breed entrepreneurs.
“We have three formal markets, with the biggest one being the Rundu Open Market in the CBD and it has over 50 stalls. The rent for those stalls in no more than N$50 per month because it for the people,” he said.
The town’s residents who are interested in selling their goods at the market have to apply for a stall through the market operators, however, the stalls are leased for no more than five years, after which the tenants are expected to move out under the assumption that their business has grown enough for them to be able to expand elsewhere.
“These small businesses that sprout from the markets are very helpful because parents make profits and can provide for their children. They mainly sell traditional food and products, so in that way they also boost the local economy because they are supporting suppliers from within the community,” Haironga stressed.
Unfortunately he said that the market came with challenges such as not being able to provide stalls for all of those in need. The distance from the markets and the every growing neighbourhood was growing further and further, putting the markets out of reach of some residents.
“Maintaining and upgrading the market has also proved to be a challenge, as a result the market experiences problems like leakages during the rainy season and the vendors cannot operate there. Unfortunately the council cannot address those problems immediately because the money that comes in from the tenants is not enough and the council has to prioritise on which issues are more pressing,” he said.
In the same breath, the CEO commended the locals for not being discouraged, noting that small, informal businesses drive the economy of small towns, noting that although they look small, they have a big impact when they are all put together and that amounts to communal wealth.
Kallie van der Merwe, the CEO of Safland Properties Namibia, which developed the Rundu Shopping Mall for Nguni Property Fund noted that the mall which houses 30 tenants was doing exceptionally well.
He explained that there was a huge demand in Rundu, which he considered the ‘second largest’ town in the country, as such, his company has been looking into further developmental projects in the town, noting that they envisaged their next project to be completed by next year.