A Peripheral ‘Nuisance’?
I AM always taken aback reading and hearing about shacks being demolished every now and then.
This cruel phenomenon is, of course, not confined to Windhoek, but due to propinquity I am saddened more when shacks are destroyed on the periphery of Windhoek.
Those who are at the receiving end are on the periphery figuratively and literally: they reside on the outskirts and are remote from social desirables and life chances. So, for how long is this going to continue?
It was reported in this paper that about 80 illegal shacks were demolished by the City of Windhoek (Tanja Bause, ‘Shacks demolished’ 24 May, 2012). I learnt that the area in which the demolition took place was Okahandja Park and the reason proffered was that the squatters in this area illegally lived on land under high-voltage power lines. Methinks the safety of these desperate people was not the driving force behind the demolition of their homes. Was it really the high-voltage issue? Or was it because this section of our people are a nuisance in the eyes of the municipality?
Certainly, they do not lay the golden egg for the City Fathers. Instead, they want services that they are seemingly unable to afford anyway! Therefore, it defies logic that the City Fathers will be concerned about the safety of these folks.
The illegal shack dwellers are said to have contravened Proclamation AG 21 of 1985 Section 2 (1) (D). Legal Positivists would argue that ‘law is what it is, not what it ought to be’. I have misgivings about this submission, for we need not be slaves to our own creations.
I would like to think that we put a human face on our laws. A shack demolished is not just a physical destruction of an ‘unwanted’ structure. It manifests into a broken family, a child taken out of school and dreams that are shattered. A human being is thrown in the wilderness, not knowing where to sleep and what to do to make it to another sunrise without dying due to the cold weather. Who cares? The laws must be respected, full stop! Is this the society we want to bequeath to our children? A ‘don’t care less’ society?
We should respect laws and everything else can go to hell? Saint Augustine of Hippo rightly said: “an unjust law is no law at all”. I find it heartless in the extreme that people’s shacks are destroyed without them being given alternatives. Instead, they are only given ultimatums. Problems created by shack demolition certainly surpass contravening Proclamation AG 21 of 1980-something!
Do not get me wrong, I am not advocating anarchy and lawlessness. If we allow our laws to be contravened in our pursuit of laws with a ‘human face’, we run the risk of degenerating into the abyss of lawlessness. However, there are times when being compassionate to a fellow human being is equally important, when common course demands that we sit and talk rather than destroy.
Hence, we should also strive to strike the balance between competing interests. If we continue with how we do things in this country, things will turn ugly and we could be caught off-guard, with our pants down. The wretched of Namibia will not care anymore. The price of driving people to a point where they do not care(less) is unequivocally dear.