The Year of Survival

Memory Magwira Photo: Tracy Tafirenyika

Memory Magwira (45) smiles and then frowns as she sells food outside a Windhoek mall.

Beyond the tasty smells from her cooking is a story of bravery.

“This year was a very difficult year, I have lost a son and a father, yet I managed to pick myself up and am still surviving.

I was doing hair, and then I started with chickens. It was going well, but food [prices] went up and I could not continue.

“The business was just going down and the fact that I had three funerals in one year was a bit challenging, because after that I was broke.

“I could not cater for my family until I started selling food. It’s helping, because I am able to take care of my family now,” she says.

“Food prices are high, electricity and taxi fares are really high, and sometimes there are no customers. We are suffering, but we are still managing to survive. It’s better now. At least I’m back on my feet,” she says.

Although president Hage Geingob themed 2023 the Year of Revival, it has been the Year of Survival for many Namibians.

BATTLING DEPRESSION

Memory Eises (33) this year stopped working at a local restaurant after the murder of her son.

She started looking for a job again in July.

Her five-year-old son, Wilfred Eiseb, was allegedly murdered by his stepfather, Rikki Narib, at Walvis Bay in January.

The matter is before the courts and Narib is currently in custody.

Wilfred’s body was discovered half-buried by a passer-by in the dunes.

Eises says she tries to be brave.

“It was tough. I went through a lot of depression, but God is helping me to cope. I am now handing in my CV to different companies for jobs.

“My 14-year-old son’s schooling has been affected and his grades have dropped. He still cannot understand why his brother was murdered,” she says.

BIG CHALLENGES

Economist Joseph Sheehama says the business and economic space in Namibia is characterised by several challenges.

High unemployment, extreme inequality and widespread poverty will continue to weigh heavily on Namibians in the medium term, he says.

“Investors had to contend with the typical constraints of the business environment, high inflation and high unemployment, among other factors. The cost of living this year explains how commodity prices and currency movements have affected the world.

“The surge in inflation that started at the end of 2021 was accelerated when the Russian invasion of Ukraine dented global energy and food commodity markets, and demand for goods, which was supposed to abate as the economy rebalanced, has mostly remained at elevated levels.”

Sheehama says the situation has been complicated by the Bank of Namibia needing to walk a tightrope regarding interest rates amid soaring inflation.

“They may need to continue to raise rates to keep inflation in check, but this makes debt for individuals and businesses more expensive.

“The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Namibia is indeed making strides in the green hydrogen sector. The government is looking to harness Namibia’s abundant wind and solar renewable energy resources to establish a new synthetic fuels industry,” he says.

Consumer activist Milton Louw says: “As consumers, we are all aware that things are working like a roller coaster, sometimes things go up, and sometimes they go down.

“In Namibia, we are still recovering after the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are fortunate that in our outlook we have discovered oil in the Orange Basin. There will be a lot of investment in this kind of activity, as well as in green hydrogen.”

Louw says the high cost of housing is becoming Namibia’s biggest challenge since independence.

“I hope to see that something happens that would address the high cost of housing for our people. This is the biggest problem we have had since independence and it is becoming worse on a daily basis, especially state-funded housing.

“Hopefully this is something the government would address, especially with the upcoming elections. I want to advise consumers to do their best to put some savings away . . ,” he says.

SMALL BUSINESSES ON THEIR KNEES

Namibia Local Business Association vice president Peter Amadhila says numerous small businesses have shut down due to the government’s neglect.

“Our businesses are in foreign hands, because the government fails to regulate the market. Namibians have lost their businesses, resulting in economic collapse as local businesses are no longer protected,” he says.

“Foreign vendors operate even in the villages. As an association, we are pressing the government to enforce laws safeguarding local businesses, but progress is slow. The private sector lacks government support – even post-Covid-19,” he says.

“Despite engaging with the government, little action has been taken. We demand the government’s attention and support for change,” he says.

IN THE DARK

Willemina Kooper (58) sits in front of her house at Keetmanshoop.

She has no electricity or essential items in her house, but apart from this, she has bigger problems.

The police have been looking for her husband for just shy of three weeks.

Johannes Kooper has gone missing while herding sheep and goats at a farm in the Berseba area.

“I don’t know what this December will bring. Do we have a funeral? Will we find him alive? I must go to the hospital to see whether they haven’t received any unidentified people – dead or alive,” Kooper says.

“All I’m asking my heavenly Father for Christmas is that I hear something. Whether he is alive or dead does not matter. I just need to hear something,” she says.

Deputy commissioner Nicodemus Mbango says Kooper was reported missing on 5 December.

“We visited every house in the vicinity to ask people for leads. Nothing concrete has turned up. Even the footprints we were following just go around in circles,” he says.

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