IMPASSIONED pleas by our chiefs and King Elifas Kauluma, in particular, for the removal of the provision of rural water supply from NamWater on grounds that the water utility’s fees for this vital commodity are just too steep for villagers cannot simply be wished away.
Because of its topography, Namibia faces a perennial water crisis. To expect villagers, that largely have to do without the slew of benefits accorded by the cash-based urban economy to pay for water is too much to ask and is literary akin to trying to draw blood from a stone.
Since villagers are known to be nostalgic or, differently put, are sentimentally attached to their livestock, they are nevertheless more often likely to be compelled to butcher or auction their vaunted donkeys, goats or cattle for a song merely to get by.
But taking into consideration that their take-home from livestock sales is not something that every Jim or Maria could write home about because they are at the mercy of unforgiving local market forces, our rural population face a no-win situation.
Water is not only a human right but is the essence of life, the core essence of our very existence. If the same argument being advanced to deprive the majority of this god-given resource (water) were used when it came to land, such as imposing land tax on non-commercial communal plots, we wonder where the majority of these people would be.
As it is, things are tough and it is a jungle out there meant for those with ways and means.
Thousands of villagers despite meagre financial resources or not having anything at all, are compelled to pay for water in the name of NamWater, the water utility.
It appears the current state of affairs could not entirely be avoided and the utility seems to be profiting from the chaos resultant from the inability by the Department of Rural Water Supply to instal and to maintain its own water infrastructure.
Maybe without making a subjective judgment, one should briefly look at the two different systems through which water is piped to the hundreds of thousands of local communities.
In one of the modalities, water is supplied to peasants through Local Water Committees, while the other thirsty half quenches its thirst through Rural Water Supply.
Local Water Committees work like this, communities or individuals that receive water directly from the NamWater pipeline group themselves in representative committees that collect money from villagers that at the end of the day, is handed directly to NamWater. And these committees, numbering roughly 500, are found mostly in the central and northern parts of the country.
The other batch lumped under the Rural Water Supply System common among rural communities in the southern regions collect water tariffs from among themselves, where-after they pay the money to Rural Water Supply.
By virtue of not having ownership of the water infrastructure, the department of Rural Water Supply pays the money to NamWater – the owner and the maintainer of these meters and water pipelines as part of cost-recovery.
The most ideal position would have been for these communities to draw water freely but it seems no one wants to take responsibility for giving water freely to the people. And herein comes the issue of prioritising or rather having misplaced priorities. How is anyone expected to develop if people not have free access to water?
We should seriously revisit this important issue and re-debate the provision of water. Vision 2030 and indeed, freedom and independence would remain a pipe dream for the majority of our people in the rural areas unless they get water. With water, the people will be able to provide for themselves by way of small gardens and stock. The free provision of water would ensure that people have food to eat. And talking about a developed country by 2030, there can be none unless people have water and food. Water and food come first.