You can’t separate people from rivers- Wakudumo

Stefanus Nashama

Kavango East Governor, Bonifatius Wakudumo yesterday said that it would be impossible to separate the river from people who live around it, despite the high number of crocodile attacks in the region.

According to Wakudumo, no one should separate people from the river as it is their way of life.

“There are many reasons why people go to the river, not only to fetch water. They have learned to coexist and they will always have to go there for swimming, washing and catching fish,” he said.

Wakudumo also indicated that the government has done a lot when it comes to potable water in the two Kavango regions, and it is still drilling boreholes in all communities.

He added that government should not stop people from going to the rivers because they are dependent on them.

Wakudumo’s comments come fresh off the heels of a fatal crocodile attack, in which an eleven-year-old girl, Mathilde Muhuli was attacked and killed earlier this month by a crocodile at the Kavango River in the Shikoro village of the Kavango East Region. It is reported that the victim was attacked while fetching water from the river.

Wakudumo has since urged people to be more cautious whenever they visit the rivers, adding that they should always go in groups and not alone, and that children should go with elders.

“I have always advised them not to go to the river but that is not possible. They must just be extra cautious,” he said.

Last weekend, a pregnant woman rescued her four-year-old son from a crocodile attack at Divava Village, in Kavango East Region. The mother and child were subsequently admitted to Andara Hospital.

Pauline Kawena, the mother of the child , said she and her son accompanied her older sister to the river to wash her clothes.

According to her, the incident happened when the children they went with were playing in the shallow waters, on her watch.

“I saw something that looked like stones moving, so I asked my sister if there were stones in the river because I saw stones moving. I am from the inland, so I could not tell what was really happening.

When I saw my son in the crocodile’s mouth, I screamed. My sister and I ran to my son’s rescue. I got on the crocodile’s back and forcefully opened the mouth while my sister pulled the boy out of the crocodile’s mouth, “she said. The Spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment, Romeo Muyunda says the Ministry regrets these incidents, while urging parents, community leaders, and the public living along the rivers to restrain children from swimming or bathing in the rivers. Muyunda has also cautioned communities living along the northern and northeastern rivers to not take risks. However, Muyunda said the Ministry is currently working on practical and innovative preventative measures like the setting up of crocodile enclosures and water provision.

Last month, the Prime Minister, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Calle Schlettwein also reiterated that the government is currently implementing solutions to address the issue of lack of potable water in the communities that do not have potable water.

Meanwhile, Popular Democratic Movement Secretary General Manuel Ngaringombe has strongly questioned why crocodiles in the two Kavango regions are killing people.

“The Ministry understands the communities draw resources from rivers for their livelihoods, but we encourage people to do so safely, by taking the necessary precautions at all times. The Ministry cannot afford to lose more people from these dangerous predators,” Muyunda stated.

He added that the Ministry discourages conducting activities such as washing in or in close proximity to the river. Muyunda indicated that the Ministry’s staff members are available 24/7 to attend to any reports of Human-Wildlife Conflict, adding that staff members are under instructions to give information and render services to communities along the rivers in order to enhance their safety.

He further said communities should report any disturbances or threats caused by crocodiles to Ministry officials nearest to them, to prevent conflict incidences.

The Ministry’s policies, Muyunda said have provisions for the identification and destruction of crocodiles or other animals that threaten people’s livelihoods and properties.

“The Ministry expresses its sympathy and condolences to the family of Mathilde Muhuli, and further extends its sympathy to all Namibians who lost their loved ones or incurred damages to their properties because of wild animals,”Muyunda added.

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