THE hikes just announced by the City of Windhoek for its services do not come as a shock. Indeed like all of us, the City of Windhoek it susceptible to the hikes in prices and the run-away inflation that Namibia, like the rest of the world, has been and is going through.
However, what is shocking is the rate by which the tariffs on services were hiked. Electricity is to hike by 12,3 percent, water by 10 percent, sewerage by 12.0 percent and bus fares by 20 percent, that is an increase of one dollar from five dollars to six dollars.
One has complete understanding that the City of Windhoek may seem to be one of the orphaned children of the Government of the Republic of Namibia in that it is mostly left to fend for itself and its inhabitants with little handouts from the Go-vernment. This is in this era of influx of people from the rural areas into the city. Add on to this the about N$200 million that the inhabitants of the city owe it. Obviously, the city has a huge task on its lap to make ends meet, especially to provide for the mass of our impoverished inhabitants lured into the city by what they think it may offer them and pushed out of the hinterlands by underdevelopment, poverty and neglect.
This situation, understandably, puts the city in a very unenviable situation as far as meeting the demands of its inhabitants are concerned. And needless to say to meet these demands, it needs resources that we all know are finite. But before the city dare ask the inhabitants to meet them halfway in meeting these demands, it needs to convince the inhabitants first that somehow the resources at its disposal are expended in the most prudent way. Prudent in the sense that besides for the provision of basic services, which are due to every inhabitant of the city, that due regard is paid to the needy inhabitants of the city.
So far, it is not evidently clear to what extent the city goes that extra mile to ensure that its weak and marginalised inhabitants feel they are equal and worthy inhabitants. On the contrary more often than not, one finds them to be at the receiving end of the city’s doings. A case in point is that despite them being the ones who may genuinely fall behind in the payment of the city services, the city wolves are quick to act against them in cutting their water and power supplies, and what-have-you as the case may be.
Meantime, as has recently been shown, the biggest culprits in this regard are our leading public figures. This is not to speak of the pressing need that exists among our wretched inhabitants. One needs only look at the masses of our people we see everyday at the corners of our streets clamouring for industrial or any other activity that can earn them something on the table. Yes, it may not be the sole responsibility of the city to provide them with employment. As much there is no way the city can deny its responsibility in this regard. And there is little evidence what the city is actually doing to facilitate employment creation. One way in which the city can help keep the city industrially active is in its planning sense.
Personally, I see little in this regard for the central business district (CBD) today seems to be increasingly occupied by the offices of officialdom to the extent that the city goes to sleep as soon as 17h00 strikes. With that the industrial clock stops and prospects of keeping people in work evaporate.
Lest I digress too much, it seems the left hand does not know what its right hand is doing. There is no way that the City of Windhoek cannot perceive itself as the left hand or right hand, whichever, of the Government. I am referring to the fact that the city is hiking its services while the Government is busy trying to ameliorate the impact of the slump we are experiencing.
Yes, one understands that the city cannot be the first to be the sacrificial lamb of the recession. Obviously, it cannot be the very poor that the Government is trying to help via the exemption of certain basic commodities from value added tax (VAT). Yes, the best that the city could do is to bring in its side in this effort. The very items the fathers and mothers of the city have targeted for hikes, needless to point out, are basic things.
Certainly, it cannot be helping the Government nor its own inhabitants in its own backyard most of whom are going heavily under the current unfriendly economic climate.
The city is an important arm of the Government and as much as it is and has largely been its own midwife, it is also an integral part of the ship the Government is wrestling to keep afloat. Thus, the city must know what its right or left hand is doing lest in its legitimate quest to satisfy the needs of its inhabitants, it does not work at cross purposes with the Government, least of all the very people whose lives it claims it is striving to better.