Windhoek is a Gem – Let’s Protect It

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By Andrew Matjila The City of Windhoek has grown remarkably during the latter years of Namibian independence. Citizens who are aware of their surroundings as they go for walks in the malls, the hillsides and perhaps the mountains around the city can tell that their hearts often miss several beats when they see what has been achieved since 1990. For a desert town to become so affluent, so inviting and so modern is, to say the least, a marvel in our times. The artist, the builder, the architect and the restorer of buildings, it is a mouth-watering experience forcing the beholder to swallow doses of saliva as the eye moves swiftly from structure to structure, taking in the serene blending of buildings of yesteryear, and those of modern-day architecture such as the Frans Indongo Gardens, the Katutura Magistrate’s Court, The Appeal Court, the Maerua Mall, the Bank of Namibia, SANLAM Building, and so on. From a ONE-HORSE-TOWN barely 20 years ago, our city’s grandeur gladdens the eye of the beholder. Coupled with the ever-present cleanliness conspicuously rare in African cities, the residents of Windhoek possess a gem worth protecting at all costs. The City Council of Windhoek obviously plays a very critical role in determining standards for our city. And not only that, but as far as standards go, the council no doubt open their eyes when they go abroad to make comparisons here and there, to make sure that Windhoek does not lag behind but keeps abreast of world standards for its rate-payers’ sake. Driving along Robert Mugabe Avenue from the Christus Kirke northwards, one sees the ordinary, unimpressive run-of-the-mill buildings, until one reaches Kenya House. All at once the scenery changes into a dream. The road here is a facility that suits the mega luxury cars seen floating in it away in the distance. Imposing buildings appear – the GIPF, the ministries of Trade and Industry, Fisheries and Marine Resources, Trustco Building housing the Development Bank, Nampower and Government gardens all dot the area changing the skyline into a myriad of eye-catching colours. The boys of the council really went to town in road design there. If wishes were horses, one would have liked to see how that modern conversion of old Macadam’s ideas would look like going all the way to link with the rest of the section just next to maerua, on its way to the new “Namibia House” in the hills over there. I say “superb” to a job well done, and a Windhoek that is steadily but surely joining the ranks of the beautiful cities of the world: New York, Paris, Cape Town, and many more. Windhoek takes the lead in neatness of course. No wonder the mayor is being re-elected over and over again. Good job Math. You do earn your keep. Having said that, it is of course imperative that I touch briefly on the not-so-worth-mentioning aspects of our town life, viz, crime, misbehaviour, taxis. Crime we can see coming because it grows with society and it thrives on society. Social misbehaviour is like a misguided missile, because it happens due to ignorance, arrogance, or simply backwardness. Crime in a city such as Windhoek can be nipped in the bud, if those in charge of the welfare of society, that is, public safety, are not only well trained, but are actually born and bred in the city. They should not only say, “I know city life”, but should be able to also say, “I understand city life.” It is not unusual to hear city botsotsos (thugs) refer to certain people as “moegoes” or “plaasjappies”, (stupid or unenlightened). The reader must be aware of the so very often used expression “one jump ahead of the police”, in reference to the successes criminals often achieve in their escapades. Some get away with it, but others are often caught. Boys who grow up in the city are very often more enlightened than country youths who see the same cows, trucks, houses, dogs and old men every day, as it were. The city dweller learns to identify various situations: safe and unsafe, various characters of people, good and bad, and learns to avoid, slip quietly by, or deal with such situations as they present themselves. Policemen who get transferred from country police stations to big cities, are identified on the same day of their arrival by the local mafia bosses, and, ironically, even by their own colleagues in the force, and ten-year-old old pick-pockets in Independence Avenue. Word soon gets around, “Daai is a moegoe. Van a poliesman”, that one is a country chap of a policeman. The meaning here is that city slickers can hoodwink him/her easily. The heist that was carried out at Johannesburg Airport a few months ago is a typical example of thugs who take advantage of situations worth exploiting. Thieves were convinced that there was a lot of money for the taking, and that the police were “fast asleep”. The City of Windhoek seems to have awakened just in the nick of time. The establishment of the City Police unit was a worthy decision that took the crooks by storm. The element of surprise is the best strategy in any operation. And this was it. It is not difficult for those who grew up in the big cities to see what is going on around the city of Windhoek. Cars with GP registration (referred to as Gangsters Paradise by the underworld) are often seen cruising the streets of Windhoek, innocently going about their legitimate business perhaps. But some of these innocent looking motorists may be big time operators in the Gauteng area, here to teach our local up and coming aspiring botsotsos the tricks of the game. There is nothing more dangerous than a country boy playing thug. Many leave their homes to look for work in the city, only to be swallowed by crime bosses with promises of quick wealth. Once in the city, they get hurt fast before they know what hit them. But it is common knowledge that daring criminals who have long passed the point of no return, come to Windhoek transporting drugs, dagga, and other contraband to teach their local students of the underworld “how to tame a town”. There have been heists in Namibia in which neighbouring crooks have been found participating. We wish our local City Police great success in their new calling. Citizens must regard this as a collective effort, and not the task of the City Police alone. The modern trouble-shooter is not necessarily a shabby looking, dishevelled down-and-out. Hardly! The thief who will accost a citizen at a cash machine will probably look like a young businessman going about his daily tasks. In a nutshell: – Dangerous men and women have learnt to look prosperous, businesslike and respectable people. – They drive around in expensive motor vehicles and wear exclusive designer clothes. – Their modus operandi is not confined to the ordinary cheap bag snatching, but to profitable undertakings where the loot is substantial. – Nowadays thieves want to live well, and in luxury. – In their operations they may come dressed as policemen, priests, nuns, teachers, security personnel, or any of the respectable groups that serve society faithfully. – In planned, high-stakes operations, criminals now employ the services of ex-fighters and soldiers. In police stings in the Gauteng province, it was discovered that SADC bad boys now operate together. Zimbabwe, Mozambique South Africa and other neighbouring countries’ crime syndicates now operate together. This is a new phenomenon that spells difficult times ahead for police forces. These gangs are well armed, obviously from arsenals previously used during the liberation wars in Southern Africa. Police in the region will have to attain new heights in training techniques and crime busting. Criminals will establish themselves into small armies in the next 20, 30 years, and will wreak havoc in our societies. That is why there is an urgent need for towns such as Windhoek to prepare their police forces to meet the crime situation of 2015, 2020, 2025 and deep into the twenty-first century. Crime investigators for 2015 must be trained how to fly an aeroplane, a helicopter, to use a machine-gun, to swim, to read signs, in unarmed combat, and yes to be like James Bond himself. The other rather embarrassing social problem in our society is the “street urinaters”. These are men who seem not to worry about public morals and regard any place anywhere as their open ablution block. In full view of oncoming traffic, pedestrians, women, children and even foreign tourists busy taking pictures, these men unzip their pants, draw, point and blast away. I have often seen some of these fellows ignoring bushes nearby and instead standing out where they can be seen by all and sundry. It is a great pity, because these men have definitely lost touch with African culture, which demands that a man must respect women and children and not embarrass them in public. Those of our readers who know a bit of our history will remember that boys and girls did not share the same washing facilities, even at the river. Why certain people behave as they do in town is beyond my understanding. But they must be stopped. The city council must fine people for spitting and urinating in public for the sake of our health. Make money with fines for such misbehaviour. It is called public indecency, and men and boys (small children excluded) must not be allowed to get away with it. Raise the standards of our town if it is the last thing you do, but please protect our women and children from the street rainmakers. In Indonesia heavy fines are imposed on just spitting in the street. Urinating can call for immediate imprisonment. Finally we have the taxis. There is no point in making rules and regulations if we do not intend to enforce them. Taxi operators in Windhoek ignore just about every rule in the book from crossing red lights to obstructing traffic. Hooting to some taxi drivers to give way is often rewarded with a rude response that is unprintable. Why, Oh Why? When the speed cops are around taxis behave themselves. At mid-day the law disappears from the taxi ranks and the Shoprite area, and the taxis take over. The law is on lunch and the taxis do as they please. So, we behave only when the police are around? What a pity. And these same taxis were crying “foul” when their movements in town were curtailed in the past. Now that they are granted freedom of movements in town were curtailed in the past. Now that they are granted freedom of movement, they demonstrate clearly what they can do with that freedom. What a pity. But something more than just tickets must be done. An education is required here to empower taxi drivers to behave themselves. There are some who really care and respect other motorists, but the majority seem to think only of themselves in the street, and nobody else. What a pity. In the final analysis: The City of Windhoek is taking great strides and forging ahead as a city in its own right. Congratulations on your successes, councillors. Let me sign off with the hope that expansion of our city will be commensurate with the provision of the most important commodity, viz Water. Desert towns the world over tend to end up as ghost towns when the demand for water exceeds availability. And Windhoek is a desert city folks. Let’s make sure that Vision 2030 translates into not only five hundred thousand inhabitants in Windhoek, but also water resources that should meet the needs of one million.

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