Oshakati — Hundreds of people living in formal settlements around Oshakati are living in deep poverty. Inhabitants of Oshakati West, the area known as ‘Eenhokele’ do not have access to basic necessities such as clean drinking water and sanitation, or even adequate food.
Many of the households have lost their breadwinners, while some have retired and no longer have steady monthly incomes to pay their municipal service rates and taxes.
As a result, many households are now saddled with massive municipal debts. Orphans, unemployed youth, pensioners and disabled people head many of the households in the area.
Even though they require food assistance, a Cabinet resolution dictates that people living in urban areas should not receive food relief.
‘Eenhokele’ was developed during colonial times when the apartheid segregationist policy makers built basic matchbox housing units in each town to settle residents according to the colour of their skin and tribe. The housing units are all the same, replicas of Windhoek’s Owambo, Damara and Herero locations, and each house has its own flushing toilet-cum-shower in the corner of the backyard.
Poverty-stricken and disabled Kasimia Tobias lives with one of his unemployed sons and they survive on his monthly disability grant of N$500. The 59-year-old Tobias supports his unemployed wife who lives at the village and their two minor daughters. One of his sons is studying at the Namibia Institute of Mining Technology (NIMT).
“I have to stay in town where there are taxis to take me to the social grant payout point. It is difficult to get transport at the village,” he says.
One could say Tobias’ backyard has been neglected on purpose with overgrown grass, bushes, paper and plastic litter, because it has been turned into a toilet. His non-functioning outside toilet fills the air in the backyard with an unbearable stench. The backyard is also used as the kitchen.
Inside his two-bedroom house, the kitchen has been turned into his son’s bedroom, and the main bedroom in which Tobias sleeps also serves as a pantry of sorts for food, household utensils and other items.
The second bedroom, which he refers to as the guest room, is furnished with boxes and nothing else. This is where the liquor sellers from the village are accommodated whenever they come to Oshakati to sell their homemade liquor at the open market.
“All I want is water. I do not care about electricity, my children are at school, they can always pay for electricity once they have completed their studies,” says Tobias.
The water source for Tobias’ family, whose water supply was suspended three years ago, is the Oshakati-Calueque water canal, which is about 1.5 km away. Occasionally, the neighbours would feel pity and give him a 5-litre container or a 1-litre jug of water.
Tobias who at the age of 59 looks 80, says his debts have been accumulating for decades, even before the independence of the country.
“Luckily, the South African government never used to cut off water or the electricity supply. We were even luckier because when the Swapo government came to power, they wrote off all the debts and we were only asked to pay N$700, but water and electricity debts piled up again until it was all cut off,” he says.
Tobias is not the only one that lives in poverty in this area of the town. Living only a few metres from his house are Immanuel Kawedi and his brother Angula Johannes.
Like Tobias, their water and electricity have been suspended a long time ago. The brothers claim they are 10 siblings who have lost both their parents.
“Our mother was a nurse, she died in 2000 and our father who was a medical doctor who died in 1994. Our elder sisters are married, they have families of their own and we cannot bother them anymore. Our maternal grandmother who lives at the village is over 100 years old and cannot help because she also needs someone to take care of her. Also, we cannot move to the village, because we were born here and grew up here, we are not used to village life,” said Kawedi.
The two brothers, who claim to have completed grades 10 and 12, said all they need is employment to be able to pay their water bill, buy food and help their children since they are now fathers.
The brothers only survive by selling sweets and fruit from the makeshift stall in front of their house.
Apart from Tobias and the two brothers, more households in the same area have had their utilities suspended, although they were unwilling or distrustful of talking to New Era.
When approached for comment, Councillor of Oshakati West Aram Martin said his office will visit the households in question and see if they can be helped.
Source Article from http://allafrica.com/stories/201210100406.html
Namibia: Oshakati Residents Struggle Under Grinding Poverty
AllAfrica News: Water and Sanitation
All Africa, All the Time.