San Elderly Yearn for Botswana

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By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

TALISMANUS

Like the Biblical Israelites’ longing for the lavish pots of Egypt on their exit from Egypt to the Promised Land when things proved hard, Kashe Owa is longing for the pots of Botswana.

In his view, Namibia does not provide for the likes of him, unlike Botswana.

“Survival in Namibia is very difficult. We live on the mercy of God,” laments Owa, only less than two years away from turning 60 years when he will start getting his old-age pension allowance.

Meantime, there is no guarantee that he will ever see the day of his pension allowance given the condition in which he finds himself and his family. Yes, there may have been enough rain last season but people like him cannot live from rain as the authorities may mistakenly think, comments Owa.

“Life is difficult for us. We are blind, we are sick and we are unemployed. How can one really survive if unemployed?” The next thing that comes to mind is the lives of their counterparts in Botswana who, according to Owa, are in an enviable position. Among them is his own son, a police officer there and according to Owa, a ‘somebody’ known by everybody there.

“San people there live better. One is starting to believe what is said on the radio is true when one opens it that Namibia is not free,” he remarks dejectedly. He adds that his visit to Botswana has made him realise that the Namibian Government has not embraced the San community.

Having gone old and infirm in Namibia to no avail, he thinks the only option left for him is to get his passport for a permanent exit to Botswana, joining his son and sister. That is if he is still alive then. He thinks that the Namibian Government’s treatment of the San community is not only some kind of neglect but some sort of discrimination as well.

Getting to the day he turns 60 years and receives his pension allowance seems an eternity for him. Understandably so, given the hardships he endures, making it difficult for him to understand why he in this state of decay, old as he may be in his own sense, sick, unemployed and almost blind, he is not getting an old-age pension. In this regard, talk of him having to turn 60 is all unnecessary officialdom and empty bureaucratic language of little meaning to him.

His sense of desperation and hopelessness is worsened by a food subsidy that seems to be taking ages to come. They registered for this last March. Everyday has since been like a wild goose chase.

Their trust in the authorities has quickly run thin. You mention Gobabis or Windhoek to him at a great risk. In his eyes, these two urban centres represent nothing but laziness, neglect, dereliction of duty and responsibility, if not outright oppression. That is where the local office forwarded the “papers” and never to hear of them again.

His guess is that eventually these papers end in the dustbin. And it is years since Owa has applied, especially for an old-age pension allowance only to be told time and time again that he has as yet to reach the required age.

Meantime, “people are dying from hunger”. Owa and family are also not impressed with the local councillor, the Councillor for the Otjombinde Constituency, Mati Ndjoze, and other officials who are responsible for processing the papers they need.

In this regard, they doubt whether the officials ever do any follow-ups. Given this seeming eternity in helping their lot, they cannot but conclude that somehow Ndjoze has only been elected to feather his own nest.

Owa worked for years for a farmer at the village of Okatjondende until a wage dispute with his employer led to his departure. He worked there for all his life that even his great granddaughter, about three years now, was born there as indeed all his whole family. Can one really blame him for feeling that he has been used and dumped?

The very day New Era spoke to him on the outskirts of this settlement, all that he and his family had to eat was tea. Neither were they sure whether they would ever have a meal on that day.

Owa and company, make no mistake, have heard of BIG. The reason it has not reached them, they conclude unknowingly, is because the money has ended in the pockets of the local officials.

Eagerly, Ueriunga Hangara, an in-law, joins the wailing fray of the plight befalling his San in-laws and the youth here generally. He raises among his concern tenders for local work that are awarded to contractors who never finish the work.

Locals doing piecework on such projects seldom benefit them, with contractors disappearing without finishing the work. A case in point, he points out, are the Build Together houses. Not to speak of the rip-offs they encounter at the hands of such contractors.

He feels even when it comes to piecework on such projects preference is given to those who are already employed and there is no affirming people like the San. The same, he claims, applies to employment in government institutions like schools’ kitchens and cleaning jobs.

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