Namibia: Kabbe Community Decries Closed Border Post
LUHONONO – Community members of the Kabbe North and South constituencies in the Zambezi region are frustrated by the closure of the immigration office at Luhonono, making it difficult for them to cross into neighbouring Zambia.
They said as a result, they are forced to cross into Zambia illegally as they cannot afford to travel to Katima Mulilo and back to get their passports stamped or to get border passes. This is because the cost of travelling is more than what they make, as most of them do not have jobs.
Chindo Lubinda from Luhonono in the Kabbe North constituency has been one of those affected, stating that they used to find life easier because of the proximity to Zambia, where he and others could buy food such as maize meal due to the short commute.
“But since the outbreak of Covid-19, they closed down the office. We can thus no longer get border passes here, unless we travel to Katima Mulilo.
Whenever we now cross into Zambia, we are forced to hide, as it is an illegal crossing. If the Zambian officials find you, they place you under arrest, and you have to pay a fine of about N$5 000,” he said.
Lubinda added that if an individual happens to be lucky and not get caught, they will still have to deal with police officers on the Namibian side, who confiscate the maize meal and cooking oil that they buy in Zambia.
“This has become a problem, as we do not know how we will survive. Why has our country forgotten us, as we even have voters’ cards and do as our country asks of us? But when we try to find ways to survive, our government does not come to our aid,” he noted with discernible disappointment.
Another community member from Luhonono in Kabbe North, Boniface Muyunda, said they survive from buying food in Zambia as transport from Luhonono to Katima Mulilo is about N$160 to go and come back, while a 25kg of maize meal is N$240.
“It is better for us to buy in Zambia, which is closer. This past month, there was a group which was caught illegally crossing to go and buy food, and they were arrested. This is all due to the fact that we have no immigration office here.
They were fined 5 000 Zambian Kwacha each, but there is no such thing as getting any receipt when making that payment. “Since they could not pay the fee, they were moved to the cells at Shesheke until I managed to gather some money and got them out”, said Muyunda.
Residents stressed that all these issues could be avoided if they had an immigration office within the area, and expressed the hope that Government would listen to their plight.
Rosemary Chika is also from Luhonono in Kabbe North, and felt the closure of the immigration office has just brought difficulties for them.
“I am surprised that the government is not thinking about us. They built us a tarred road, but forgot the fact that we can’t eat the road. When it comes to campaigning, they will be the first ones here, without thinking about where we find food.
Zambia is closer to us than Katima Mulilo, as well as much cheaper for us. We have been buying in Zambia for years. At times, we even cross over to Zambia for medical reasons as there is no X-ray machine here,” she elucidated.
Contacted for comment, the deputy director for immigration in Zambezi Matrida Musweu admitted that they are aware of the situation.
“The Luhonono border post was closed during Covid-19 when other borders also closed in the region. When the other borders were reopened, the Luhonono and Kamenga borders were not opened. However, the two governments are in negotiations to find a solution,” she stated.
Musweu, however, hinted that the Kamenga border post at Singalamwe might soon open, as the ministry has already put structures there.
Things are looking bleak at Luhonono, since the ministry has no permanent structures there.