Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Is Ours A Government Of The Few For The Few?
FOR a former classmate of mine, it feels like the world has turned against her. Unemployed, a single parent, she faces taxi price hikes, electricity increases soon and the City of Windhoek has demolished her new 'kaya'. After being promised a job and better living conditions, she had hoped her vote would change life for the better but it is ‘a luta continua’ for her and many of her neighbours in Windhoek’s Okahandja Park. And she is a person who has been trying all her life to live within her meagre means. Like many others in her area she has complained vigorously to the City of Windhoek authorities about the hygiene and other conditions in her area but all they have done is make promises. Before the last elections politicians promised the settlement reduced water and electricity tariffs, better housing, shopping centres, a health institution and free school. Now that they have waited so long, she was part of the group who decided to set up new shacks as winter approaches. Hers was close to her mother’s but the authorities moved in fast to break it down. I wonder why they habitually choose to do the breaking down in winter and only in places where hunger and the struggle for better living conditions are so critical! Can one blame her for thinking that the shack demolition brought back the memories of the illegal removal she went through with her parents during the 1959 Old Location debacle? And if that was an inhumane exercise, what about the shack demolitions they have gone through in an independent Namibia? A better life, as hoped for by those martyred in the liberation war and those who died in the Katutura removals, is surely out of grasp for people like her mother who have lived to tell the tales of that epic battle with municipal authorities. In fact, such tales will continue to be told to the ‘born-frees’ but only the venue of the battle has now changed. For instance, earlier on, some of her neighbours were among those who made the long daily trek across the city to the rubbish dumps to collect food and other items to make ends meet despite sometimes being sjamboked by the security guards at the dump. She is but one of the many Namibians who authorities keep telling that they have set up a task group to investigate their living conditions or reasons for the continued struggle at dumps. Many such investigations end up in empty promises or temporary solutions like giving them piecemeal jobs here and there for which they earn a pittance. One such case was when some of them were taken up to do work at a certain place and their ‘pay’ was food (under the food-for-work programme). After some time the same project was tendered out to someone else who was receiving money and employed other people. Why, if one may ask, was it not possible to also pay the first group in cash? What makes them different or inferior? It is worthwhile to mention that authorities have become used to threats by the people. When there is an uproar over services, some even join in the complaints although they have been voted into office or given key jobs to work for the people. One gets the feeling that whatever the people will do or say to complain about services, politicians and authorities know that they (people) do not have any hope in hell of changing things. It is sad that the land of milk and honey which many expected at independence (rightly or wrongly so) is extravagantly real for some and excruciatingly absent for the majority of the people. A small group of people continue to live well at the cost of others and one cannot fault those who have a sense of resignation that the possibility of a better Namibia is nothing more than pie in the sky. Our leaders need to guard against the general feeling building among many at grassroots level that the only demonstrable point of political contact defining common citizenship between the highly and the lowly placed is only the vote. People feel they only become important when their vote is needed. I am leaving you with a question: Is ours truly a Government of the people for the people? Or is it a Government of the few for the few?