The other day I met a good friend on the street and he complained that since I came to the Informanté things have changed for the worse, because whereas in the past the newspaper circulated for free, it is now for sale.
As a result he is not able to get the paper at places where he used to. I explained that we do not sell the newspaper, but have made a provision for members of the public who so wish, to sell the paper for own gain. He was adamant that we collect the money, so we had to find a copy of the paper. I showed him what we have inscribed on top of the newspaper, that the bearer of the newspaper is authorised by Trustco to sell it at any price between N$4 and N$10.
He asked me why. I focused his attention on the next statement on the same front page of the Informanté that reads: There can be no true freedom for all without true prosperity for all. My friend held that what we were doing was tantamount to encouraging laziness in society, because these people were now getting something without working for it. I focused his attention on the fact that most of the people who sell the paper are generally defined as street-kids. You will find them on Thursday morning in front of the Trustco building in groups of seven to ten, numbering between thirty and forty, to collect the paper.
After this long chat my friend left, still unconvinced. A week later he phoned to confirm that he had in fact gone out on Thursday and found the kids there, organised in groups, each seemingly managed by what he believed to be a ring-leader. He also found people who lined up in cars to collect the newspaper, handed in packs to each of the cars that drove around the circle in front of the Trustco building. He found the same in front of the Informanté offices, at the end of the Trustco building complex on the Northern flank and he was surprised that Trustco does not sell the paper for own gain. I referred him again to the statements on the front page of the newspaper. I have not heard from him about the subject matter ever since.
The public is used to buying newspapers and few can relate to a competitive newspaper, such as we have, circulating for free. The company has successfully experimented with giving the newspaper at no cost to the public, but at the same time, encourages members of the public to make a living from the sale of the Informanté to fellow members of the public. The paper has found vendors. One such a professional vendor collects 3 000 copies of the newspaper from the offices of Informanté every Thursday morning between four and six. By nine in the morning he would be back to ask for more, because his sales groups would have run out of copies. If one sells the paper for N$4 each and collects 3 000 of these, they will make N$12 000 per week and N$48 000 per month. This is money with limited overheads, other than the food they eat before collecting the paper to sell.
I have visited News Print during the printing of Informanté and I would stick around from 24h00 to 1h30 and I found that some of the people who work in the printing shop do take copies home. I would not think that it would be for reading only, because many such stacks would contain up to a hundred copies.
Surely somebody is buying bread for someone else out of these modest sales of the Informanté. I live in Katutura and each morning I drive to work through parts of Khomasdal in order to circumvent heavy traffic. I would ask the vendors on the street whether they have Informanté and three out of every five would produce a copy, selling for between two and four dollars. One Thursday morning I was rushing for a meeting at Iitumba towards the south of Windhoek and I had no time to stop at the office. I had to buy the newspaper in front of the Gammams Service Station for N$3 and hard bargaining did not do the trick.
There is a case for encouraging communities to take their lives in their own hands and to this end: there is no place for complacency.