31 Oct 2011 - Story by Desie Heita
OMUTHIYA GWIIPUNDI â€" Omuthiya Gwiipundi is no longer the drive-through place where travellers would stop over for refreshments before continuing with their journeys.
It is now a proclaimed town, and the capital city of Oshikoto Region. This has brought massive changes and benefits to the 5 000 residents as well as the region itself.
Residents and nearby settlements no longer need to drive the 100 kilometres to Tsumeb or Ondangwa to access basic services, according to Samuel Mbango, the town's chief executive officer.
The decentralisation of services that came with establishing the Oshikoto Regional Office in Omuthiya, has accelerated the delivery of services required for government institutions in the region to function effectively, says the director of planning and development, Sointu-Sophia Angula Mupopiwa.
Previously, maintenance work at schools or other State buildings had to get the go- ahead from Windhoek. This often resulted in delays. The function is now with the regional council, with a dedicated budget. Small maintenance work now goes through the local tender board.
"The response to the needs in the region is faster, one can really say that decentralisation of services is working," says Mupopiwa.
Keeping up with demand for houses is becoming a headache for the town council. "Omuthiya has become a place to stay and business is booming," says Mbango.
Omuthiya town council is the youngest town council, established nearly five years ago. It has become the preferred town to settle for many people from other areas.
The private sector has also come to the party although there are still limitations for industrial enteprises who still have to wait for the town council to proclaim an industrial area.
But banks and other financial institutions have opened branches and major retail chain stores are in town â€" almost all services that residents of Omuthiya Gwiipundi and surrounding villages had to access in Tsumeb or Ondangwa.
Oshikoto Region is home to 161 000 people, according to the 2001 census and, with the town council in place, the regional council has now shifted its attention to Onethindi, Onayena and Oshivelo, the three major settlements in the region.
All three have been proclaimed townships and the regional council has to work round the clock to plan for the balooning population.
"Onethindi, for instance, is densely populated and the majority are businesspeople [who] are creating a boom in the economy of Onethindi," says Mupopiwa.
The regional council, together with the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC), have established an industrial park at Onethindi to cater for the businesses but the absence of funds limits the regional council's target for the township.
Oshivelo is also no longer a mere check-point for veteÂrinary inspections. Agra, the country's leading agricultural retailer, has put up a centre there to cater for farmers, both commercial and communal, in the area.
The Namibian Defence Force is also creating a suburb there, erecting nearly 30 permanent houses for its senior staff. All these developments have created spin-offs for the settlement.
"We are happy with the development in Oshivelo so far," Mupopiwa says.
Both the town and the regional councils have huge plans. The town council is talking of developing the tourism sector in partnership with the private sector.
Omuthiya is about 10-kilometres from the nearest gate into Etosha National Park, and the King Nehale conservancy is practically within the town boundaries.
On employment, the regional council points at the sanitation project it is currently rolling out. The work has thus far provided employment to 60 people in each of the nine constituencies, to erect 1 500 toilets or 166 toilets per constituency.
In addition, six small and medium enteprises (SMEs) in each constituency have received contracts.