Community is a no-show at road talks - MWT

The Ministry of Works and Transport (MWT) was disappointed by the turnout of community members in the Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto and Ohangwena Regions at public hearings regarding the road conditions there.

The hearings, which were hosted by a MWT initiative named ‘Transport 4 People’, were held in September this year. ‘Transport 4 People’, a project to develop an inclusive, cost-effective and sustainable transport system for the people in the four northern regions, held a series of stakeholder meetings and public hearings to enable local people to become involved in the project.

Amongst other topics, they discussed the difficulties of coping with the transport system in the area, and shared ideas of what changes they needed. Tuwilika Shaungu of Transport 4 People said although locals had often complained about the transport system in the northern regions, the turnout suggested little interest.

“We wanted to hear from them, as the purpose of the meetings was to hear what complaints they have, and share ideas on how to bring about the necessary changes. There were nine people at the public hearings in the Ohangwena Region, 11 in the Oshikoto Region, six in Oshana and 11 in Omusati. The plan was to submit to the Roads Authority the ideas which came out of those meetings, which we still plan to do,” said Shaungu.

“Some of the biggest complaints about transport in these northern regions are that the towns are very far from the rural settlements, and the places where they have to go and get transport to towns is far from their homesteads”, she stated.

Suggestions were thus made that buses at nearby, designated pick-up points be provided by the ministry. This is because although pick-up trucks are not, by law, allowed to carry more than five passengers, drivers seeking to make more money often load more than that.

“The public also wanted the Roads Authority to educate them regarding road signs, as it has been an issue. For example, many of them will stand at a pedestrian crossing when they should go, which creates disorder on the road,” explained Shaungu.

Transport 4 People is aware that transport improvements are not only related to infrastructure, but there are many more dimensions which need to be addressed to make transport systems more sustainable.

Most citizens in the North rely on public transport, and an affordable public transport system will thus allow the urban and rural populations to participate more easily in economic activities. Affordable mobility will give them more direct and effortless access to their working places, and to services such as health or educational facilities. This will then increase their economic opportunities.

The stakeholder meetings, Shaungu said, yielded a better turnout with the attendance of Omusati chief regional officer Amutenya Protasius Adowa, members of Nampol and Ministry of Works’ delegates.

Omuthiya town councillor Selma Nakaziko suggested the provision of traffic lights at pedestrian crossings and speed humps, as drivers often ignore the warning signs which are provided. A steering meeting will be held on 12 November in the Oshana region to discuss the way forward.