Omaruru residents out to stop the rot

Omaruru residents out to stop the rot

OMARURU residents have banded together to stop the rot of corruption, and mismanagement that has caused municipal services to grind to a halt in neighbouring townships.

Various sections of the northwestern town’s residents have held meetings with their municipal council demanding accountability, transparency and an end to corrupt practices. This week, they forced the councillors to reverse questionable decisions, put a moratorium on the sale of land and other property and to investigate suspected corrupt deals involving municipal officials and councillors.At one meeting two weeks ago, the community submitted about 40 questions and issues to the council demanding answers.Omaruru has about 7 000 residents.”There has never been an opportunity like that… for the community to confront its leaders,” said Skii Wasserfall, a member of the Omaruru Development Concerned Group.The group has been trying for the past two years to get “a proper” hearing from the council.They said they got even more worried about information that other towns have fallen victim to water and electricity crises.Public amenities at the town are clearly in a dilapidated state.”We are very much concerned that what is happening in other towns will spill over to us,” said Skii Wasserfall of the Concerned Group.The Mayor of Omaruru, Michael Tjirera, pointed out yesterday that his council was new and had undertaken to “get closer to the people”, hence the meetings with the community.However, Tjirera told The Namibian in an interview, the council had not agreed to halt the sale and transfer of municipal property.Instead he promised greater transparency.But Musambani, the Chairman of the Omaruru Chamber of Commerce said councillors at the meeting held on Wednesday had agreed to a moratorium until a joint committee was formed between the council and the community “to ensure transparency”.Tjirera said there might have been a misunderstanding.The businesspeople appealed for openness alleging that municipal officials had sold land and other public assets irregularly without tender.Previous councillors had refused to provide information.The council this week also cancelled an agreement to outsource the management of the local museum to a group that turned out to be led by the girlfriend of the municipal public relations officer, Frans Gaoseb.Residents alleged that for a long time officials had ignored their call to get involved in the running of the museum, until it emerged last month that a group by the name of Mubasen had been given permission to operate the historical centre in town.The deal came to light after Gaoseb, the PRO, tried to get a N$9 000 donation from the chamber of commerce for a “familiarisation tour to Swakopmund and Windhoek.Gauseb, his girlfriend Maureen Hoebes, and her friend Venessa Nancy Gawitas were to undertake the tour.The residents complained that Mubasen members did not have any expertise in tourism or community-based projects.They also disclosed during the meetings that Mubasen was, in fact, Hoebes’s name.”This thing should be benefiting the community, but instead it was given to benefit a household,” Musambani of the chamber of commerce said about the museum deal.Gaoseb yesterday defended the deal saying his girlfriend took the “initiative” by requesting to administer the museum, but confirmed that the process was not opened to the community.As regards the criticism about experience, Gaoseb said: “As a black man, who has experience?” One community member, Reinhold Basieman Tourob, said he had worked as a tour guide and at a conservancy and thus considered himself as having experience to run tourism projects, including a museum.One of the businesspeople reportedly expressed concern that there may be other irregularities taking place that had not yet become known.”I really want council to guard against favouritism, nepotism.This is but one issue.How many others like this have happened,” asked the businessman.Meanwhile, Mayor Tjirera said “no red lights are flickering” with regard to Omaruru’s finances “but it does not allow us to rest”.This week, they forced the councillors to reverse questionable decisions, put a moratorium on the sale of land and other property and to investigate suspected corrupt deals involving municipal officials and councillors.At one meeting two weeks ago, the community submitted about 40 questions and issues to the council demanding answers.Omaruru has about 7 000 residents.”There has never been an opportunity like that… for the community to confront its leaders,” said Skii Wasserfall, a member of the Omaruru Development Concerned Group.The group has been trying for the past two years to get “a proper” hearing from the council.They said they got even more worried about information that other towns have fallen victim to water and electricity crises.Public amenities at the town are clearly in a dilapidated state.”We are very much concerned that what is happening in other towns will spill over to us,” said Skii Wasserfall of the Concerned Group.The Mayor of Omaruru, Michael Tjirera, pointed out yesterday that his council was new and had undertaken to “get closer to the people”, hence the meetings with the community.However, Tjirera told The Namibian in an interview, the council had not agreed to halt the sale and transfer of municipal property.Instead he promised greater transparency.But Musambani, the Chairman of the Omaruru Chamber of Commerce said councillors at the meeting held on Wednesday had agreed to a moratorium until a joint committee was formed between the council and the community “to ensure transparency”.Tjirera said there might have been a misunderstanding.The businesspeople appealed for openness alleging that municipal officials had sold land and other public assets irregularly without tender.Previous councillors had refused to provide information.The council this week also cancelled an agreement to outsource the management of the local museum to a group that turned out to be led by the girlfriend of the municipal public relations officer, Frans Gaoseb.Residents alleged that for a long time officials had ignored their call to get involved in the running of the museum, until it emerged last month that a group by the name of Mubasen had been given permission to operate the historical centre in town.The deal came to light after Gaoseb, the PRO, tried to get a N$9 000 donation from the chamber of commerce for a “familiarisation tour to Swakopmund and Windhoek.Gauseb, his girlfriend Maureen Hoebes, and her friend Venessa Nancy Gawitas were to undertake the tour.The residents complained that Mubasen members did not have any expertise in tourism or community-based projects.They also disclosed during the meetings that Mubasen was, in fact, Hoebes’s name.”This thing should be benefiting the community, but instead it was given to benefit a household,” Musambani of the chamber of commerce said about the museum deal.Gaoseb yesterday defended the deal saying his girlfriend took the “initiative” by requesting to administer the museum, but confirmed that the process was not opened to the community.As regards the criticism about experience, Gaoseb said: “As a black man, who has experience?” One community member, Reinhold Basieman Tourob, said he had worked as a tour guide and at a conservancy and thus considered himself as having experience to run tourism projects, including a museum.One of the businesspeople reportedly expressed concern that there may be other irregularities taking place that had not yet become known.”I really want council to guard against favouritism, nepotism.This is but one issue.How many others like this have happened,” asked the businessman.Meanwhile, Mayor Tjirera said “no red lights are flickering” with regard to Omaruru’s finances “but it does not allow us to rest”.

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