Kabbe South constituency councillor John Likando says due to the heavy floods in the area, many residents have been cut off and are unable to reach town for basic essential services and goods due to the rising Zambezi River, which currently stands over seven metres.
Due to Covid-19 state of emergency regulations, the government has provided the Kapelwa Kabajani ferry to transport residents via the river to Ngoma where they can get taxis to Katima Mulilo for essential services.
As a health measure, he said, the ferry normally transports 60 passengers, but that has been limited to 30 people to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
However, Likando said many other villagers along the Zambezi River could not be picked up because some areas have no docking places for the ferry.
The water levels are so high making it dangerous for small boats, canoes as water reached above seven metres mark (one of the highest since 1977 or 1978 floods). “Kapelwa Kabajani ferry being the only public river transport with full carrying capacity of 60 (under Covid-19 regulations reduced to half) it is a challenge. With only more than six gazetted docking points, not everyone is able to get a chance to get a hike. Majority of docking points are submerged. Therefore, the ferry can’t dock as usual,” he said.
He added all rural residents need to get their daily essentials in Katima Mulilo but not all goods procured will be loaded into the ferry as per carrying capacity.
According to Likando, the ferry needs the whole day to travel as it faces the current (when going to Impalila) and has several stoppages.
Other challenges he mentioned is members of the public domain do not give each other fair chances when it comes to trips.
The closed borders with Botswana and Zambia where villagers heavily rely on daily needs remain a challenge.
Prior to Covid-19, residents living along the river and at Impalila used to go shopping in Kasane, Botswana, while others would cross into Zambia.
He said the Namibian Defence Force has set up a tuck shop in Impalila to assist affected residents to buy basic essential food items to avoid too much movement to Katima Mulilo.
However, he said, the tuck shop only sells 5 kg of top score maize flour, while maize meal is a daily need for residents in Zambezi. This situation, he says force residents to register their names with their village indunas (senior headmen) for permission to travel to Katima Mulilo to buy food items in quantity.
Katima Mulilo only has four big retail shops to cater for the whole region.
Likando also said social distancing is not being adhered to in some areas because villagers would group themselves in dugout canoes when crossing the river.
He added some have resorted to crossing into Zambia at night to buy alcohol and other goods illegally. Equally, he said people are illegally fishing and cross into Zambia to sell fish.
He warned against this practice, saying it’s dangerous as the Zambezi River water current is so strong.
He said of recent, two deaths have already been reported in the area of Kabbe as a result of dugout canoes capsizing.
Further, he reported that due to lack of hover boats, law enforcement officials are unable to patrol along the river for illegal cross border activities.
Likando said although residents are busy harvesting, most of their crops were destroyed by elephants, which are on the increase in the region.