Last week, this newspaper ran a series of in loco reports on the impending starvation of tens of thousands of Namibians in the remote reaches of the Ruacana Constituency in Kunene. They spoke to a number of sources including the constituency councillor, traditional leaders and government officials. And they reported that about 20 000 Namibians were on the brink of starvation in Ruacana alone. This brings to 40 000 those in need of immediate intervention for survival should we include those from the Opuwo area.
A tabloid reported towards the end of last week, that a similar number – about 40 000 others – faced the same plight around Onkaakaa village in the Otamanzi Constituency of the Omusati Region. For some reason, the reporters could not or did not speak, on record, to Sophia Shaningwa, regional Governor of these destitute souls. Perhaps she may still be convalescing given the energy she recently invested in the sanitised version of Olufuko? To his credit, Kunene governor //Hoëbeb raised alarm earlier about the situation in the Opuwo Constituency which resulted in a N$32 million intervention by the authorities in June this year.
Unless additional resources were committed to Ruacana the woefully inadequate handouts of maize meal last week may by now be severely drawn down. This does not bode well as the predictions for rain are ominous. Recent reports about the situation at Chetto in the Kongola Constituency (Caprivi) also paint the same picture of a community in need of an urgent government intervention as they fervently pray for the rains to come.
Should we add to these numbers those folks who live from hand to mouth, it paints a frightening picture of the deep-seated nature of poverty and destitution in our country. We are easily talking about upwards of 25% of Namibians. This is the ugly face of poverty and cannot sit comfortably with all Namibians of conscience. As the responsible councillor pleads ignorance about the plight of the residents of Otamanzi constituency, Meekulu Rosalia Sheya Lyashula (aged 82) says: “It seems we have been forgotten”.
And that is exactly what should not happen. Not only are the governors touted as “the ears and eyes” of the President on the ground, but the Emergency Management Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, in concert with similar units at regional levels, make up the National Emergency infrastructure.
The National Emergency System’s selling pitch is that they “apply innovative approaches and technologies to enhance community resilience to disaster risks, through effective coordination and facilitation of all disaster risk reduction initiatives in Namibia” Indeed! Except that the reported incidents in question demonstrate that the present system needs a radical shake-up and a reality check so as to avoid Jafet Iipinge and others of his ilk blissfully sitting in offices playing monopoly until directed by the Prime Minister to ship off spare bags of maize meal from Opuwo to Ruacana.
Namibians daily demonstrate compassion and generosity of spirit as they reach out to those in need and care for the less privilege. We believe this to be a defining character of our people up and down the country.
We expect our government to do no less but also to reflect these decent character traits of the people of this land in its policies and for these reasons show both compassion and responsibility towards the indigent.
The citizens should not be short-changed because of incompetence of officials who act in the fashion of Colonel Blimp even in instances where their mandate and mission is crystal clear. In any event, the values to care are intrinsic in the undertakings enshrined in the Constitution of our land. The Principles of State Policy as set out in chapter 11of the Constitution enjoin the government to pursue a humane and an all-embracing social policy.
And it is about time that the Emergency Management Unit wakes up from slumber to learn to plan better from annual droughts and/or floods. Given the skewed allocation of resources accompanied by so much wastage, this is the least Namibians must expect from their government.