The capital city is still a town of migrant workers where many have flocked for the past 200 years to eke out a living by any means necessary, whether legal or illegal. Many come looking for greener pastures, since economic development in rural areas has eluded them for the last 22 years.
High hopes have been dashed by empty promises of housing or reasonable shelter for the citizens as enshrined in the Constitution. The majority took the option that befits their economic status by building corrugated iron shacks for shelter and some established shebeens/cuca-shops as plausible businesses to generate income for their families.
The majority of informal settlers, driven by the pains of destitution, found comfort in their shacks. Ironically, local authorities don’t have an alternative for families whose shacks have been demolished and there’s no mercy for the poorest of the poor, not even during this cold winter. Some shebeen owners are actually fronting for high-ranking official and affluent middle-class workers.
The National Housing Enterprise (NHE), which is mandated by law to provide low-cost housing for the poor is now a playground of small-time property investors, better known as ‘housing-vultures’ or simply put, conmen. They are buying as many low-cost houses as they can, even engineering the auctioning of houses, whose owners are in arrears. These vultures are making a killing from rental fees.
The State needs to reinvigorate the NHE to take its rightful place within the overall mandate of the State to provide housing to the poor. It is a long term investment, if managed prudently, that will finance its own housing development projects in future. The authorities can succeed in providing every family with decent shelter if only corruption can be contained. Yes it is possible!
Shack-dwellers are now being prosecuted for being poor by the very same people they elected. Perhaps the lesson learnt is that it is time for the masses to make informed choices in the next election. The people’s power should be revolutionised, if not, the status quo will remain. Many are reminded of the meaning of Katutura, which in Otjiherero means “a place we can’t settle”, because they might be moved again by force to another place. In this case, no alternative places have been provided for those left in the cold.
Many are fed, clothed and send their kids to school with income from kapana (street food) and shebeens. However, Namibians don’t need to be nostalgic about the sad economic chapter borne out of discrimination and poverty. The economic value of shebeens to the country’s economic prosperity does not outweigh the consequences of alcohol abuse. Shebeens are not solely responsible for the pressure on the health system, the killing of the elderly and children, rape and theft cases that have sky-rocketed, but it should be investigated as a contributing factor.
If the policy of economic empowerment was not entangled in political patronage, it could have been used to empower thousands of homeless and provide a life-line to those forced by nothing other than poverty to poison others with alcohol, contributing to an array of medical problems associated or attributed to excessive and uncontrollable consumption of alcohol.
It’s a national scandal for local authorities, with the support of government, to demolish shacks and shut down shebeens without a blueprint to provide alternatives to the people affected. It casts a shadow of doubt over the integrity of authorities who are obsessed with their liberation credentials. This senseless action points to a Republic that is suffering from an acute deficit of imagination and innovation, a testimony to a lack of good governance and compassionate leaders.