Groot Aub will soon be proclaimed a town. For now, the lame and the lazy, the elderly and ‘dumped’ children grapple with niggling issues of poverty and neglect.
By Catherine Sasman
The big Useb River stretches out in front of Groot Aub, a small village about 45 km south of Windhoek. Cars, donkey carts and those who go on foot have to brave the river when in flood. These days, passage to the village is difficult, as the bountiful rains of the last three weeks have swelled the rivers and streams across the country.
A careful manoeuver through the muddy tracks in the river brings one to a broad gravel road.
The first image is that of Jan de Koker (43), who casts a lonely and strange apparition as he shuffles with great difficulty over the stones and ribs of the road.
He walks on his knees with arms swaying vigorously on the side while he holds onto strings that keep thin cutout layers of a mattress under his knees.
“I lost both feet while serving in the army in 1987,” says De Koker. A buffalo – as some of the big army trucks were called – toppled over on a military excursion in the north of the country, claiming De Koker as a victim of the accident.
Since then, he says, he has stayed at Groot Aub with his relatives, preferring to stay indoors or sit around the house.
“I don’t have feet, there are no orthopedic services here,” says De Koker. “The army has since not paid out compensation.”
From 2000, De Koker decided that he needed to reclaim some mobility; hence the contraption of mattress layers to soften the impact of the roads on his knees. “It is not too hard on the knees,” says De Koker as he resumes his shuffle to one of the small shops in the town.
Groot Aub has become a place where many of the poor go to eke out some kind of living after employers in the neighbouring towns and farmlands have rejected them, or older people who prefer the quieter – and cheaper – option to live in small settlements.
The town is also experiencing an unprecedented influx from people who stream in. The people who have been living there for decades have never before experienced such an influx, and merely ascribe it to joblessness in the city.
What the village also experiences more and more, says the principal of the Groot Aub Junior Secondary School, Jo??????’??