An Uphill Battle

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THE fight against poverty is fast gaining momentum. Government is confident that poverty reduction in Namibia could be achieved ahead of the prescribed timeframe. Much has been done since independence to not only provide basic services to far-flung communities but also to alleviate poverty in these communities. This has been the ultimate goal – to make Namibia a prosperous and happy nation. Precisely, this is what Vision 2030 is all about. Successive National Development Plans have sought to buttress this national goal. They have succeeded in mapping out the way forward and channelling the necessary resources to regions and communities that were previously marginalized. Some time back, former President and Founding Father of the Nation Dr Sam Nujoma launched the Food Security and Nutrition Documents that laid the foundation for a long-term vision for the country’s socio-economic development. This and other national programmes have given great impetus to Namibia’s quest for development and poverty reduction. While a lot remains to be done, great strides have been made to reduce poverty and to put the country on the launching pad for industrial development. But a word of caution must also go to government. One of the most comprehensive ways of reducing poverty is through workable policies that are scrupulously implemented without fear or favour. What comes to mind here is the empowerment of citizens through BEE projects, government tenders, land resettlement, fishing quotas, diamond concessions, SMEs, etc. There has to be fair play in these areas. BEE projects have to be broad based and inclusive if we are to reduce poverty. The perception that only a few elite benefit from these projects all the time is quite rife. Transparency on the allocation of tenders and land allocation for resettlement will ensure that we win the war against poverty. We must strive to reduce the gap between the poor and rich by graduating the poor from poverty through these programmes and not make the few rich, richer. The Namibian Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 1993/4 indicates that 38% of the Namibian population live in poverty while nine percent survive in extreme poverty. Judging by these numbers, the situation is not one of awful hopelessness. We can tame the numbers and reduce poverty substantially. Poverty in Namibia dates back to many years of deprivation and oppression by those who colonised our country. Poverty is highly entrenched because those who colonised the country failed to develop the potential of our people to help themselves. They were denied good education and training. They were forced onto the fringes of the mainstream economy. Productive land was forcefully taken away and they were driven onto barren patches of land called reserves where they continue to eke out a living from nothing. These and other factors exacerbated the poverty situation of Black Namibians over many years, hence recovery is an uphill battle after many years of subjugation, deprivation and neglect. The fight against poverty is a race against time and Namibia cannot afford to come second. It is now or never. Waiting too long or trailing far too behind has its own problems. We may never be able to inch ahead. Poverty is a mark of underdevelopment. Put differently, development will remain a relative term unless we develop the capacity for our people to feed themselves and provide for other basics. The appointment of two high-profile citizens this week as Ambassadors of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) is thus a welcome development in the fight against poverty. The credentials of Dr Zephania Kameeta and Veronica de Klerk are in no doubt. The two are expected to spearhead the anti-poverty campaign locally. While government and the private sector continue to pump resources into the economy to improve our lot and reduce poverty, the onus is also on individual citizens to play their part in the fight against poverty. Poverty reduction cannot be left to government alone. Communities and individuals must join in the fight to secure their own future. One way in which individuals can play a meaningful role in the campaign against poverty is by instilling the virtues of modesty in themselves. We have to change our lifestyles and try to lead modest lives. Pomposity is a recipe for bankruptcy and poverty. In our country today, there is a race reminiscent of the arms race for grandeur. Everybody wants to live big. Individuals live lavishly and dangerously as if there is no tomorrow. They save less or nothing and consume more and more. It would seem we have lost our sense of being, our sense of modesty, our humanity. Our salvation lies in humility and modesty.