By Sebedeus !Naruseb
A FEW years back, may be five years or more, a newspaper expose informed the nation of some members of the population who were scavenging for or surviving on food items from dumpsites not only in Windhoek, but also in other parts of the country. This was quite shocking to most that were not aware of this phenomenon.
The government on its part and some other Good Samaritans tried all they could to assist those that found themselves in this situation. As a country, Namibia still has to find and understand the reasons for being in this situation or if the reasons are known, why we are unable to tackle and resolve the matter of poverty in the country. I am aware that this is not an easy problem to solve but surely together Namibia can do more about it.
If you browse through the November 2012 Report called “Poverty Dynamics in Namibia” by the Namibia Statistics Agency headed then by Dr John Steytler, 28.7 percent of the Namibian population are poor. In the same report, 45.8 percent represents people with no formal education that are poor.
From the recent Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey, more than one in four households live in poverty. If these combined statistics are anything to go by, Namibia needs to do something drastic to turn things around for the better.
The Office of the Prime Minister, as a government agency, is known for spearheading poverty alleviation or reduction efforts in the country through measures like food-for-work programmes in some areas of the country, the existing programmes for the vulnerable or marginalised groups, like the San, Ovatue, and so on, but the problem persists. And from some of the reports mentioned before, the problem seems to be on the increase.
The current Prime Minister and President-elect, Dr Hage Gottfried Geingob, is a stern supporter – if not the initiator – of efforts like the Basic Income Grant (BIG) as well as the idea of the Food Bank. These are good plausible efforts to address the question of poverty head-on, but whether these efforts will be enough remains to be seen. In fact the question of inclusivity and poverty reduction is high on the agenda of the incoming government as spearheaded by the President Elect. The question on the lips of many in the country is exactly how that is going to happen.
Any definition of the concept of meritocracy or true leadership here will be broad, but I am looking at a philosophy that encompasses the Namibian situation as perceived and as accepted by the commoner in the way he or she generally perceives life in Namibia. In other words, the philosophy of power vested in the people based on merit – which in itself is highly motivational – might be something to ponder on. In my discussion with the friend we asked how it would exactly work. The merit principle might be defined differently by different members of the Namibian society. Some will tell you that it is already there, just look at the existing policies but it is not working and the reasons are known. We went on to extract a few examples like public tenders, senior public positions, land allocation, study loans and the like. The argument is that in allocating tenders, land or appointment to senior public office, the consideration should not only be on merit and acceptance by those in power, but also acceptance and satisfaction by those participating in the tender or land application as well as satisfaction by the general populace. If you tender for a particular service or applied for land or for a senior public position, the outcome should be acceptable to you as participant even if you are not the one to whom the allocation or appointment was made..
A few years back while on holiday, I travelled with friends by road through Botswana on my way to South Africa. Travelling through Botswana, I took the longer road passing through the Mamuno Border Post, Ghanzi, Maun, Gweta, Nata, Francistown, Mahalapye, and Gaborone into South Africa. We stopped at a small village between Nata and Francistown in Botswana just to relax and I saw five beautiful well-constructed houses in the middle of the small village. On enquiry, the villagers informed me that the five houses belonged to teachers who were teaching at a nearby school. The houses were financed by a local financier through the government. It reminded me of the concept of rural development where no one needs to necessarily migrate to towns and cities but still remain where they are to improve the lot of their fellow villagers in their own way. In Namibia, to build a house at, for example, the Mix settlement or at the Okamatapati village, you should forget approaching any local bank or financier to provide finance to build a structure similar to the one I saw in Botswana.
My argument is that Namibia can take lessons from other nations of similar population size and diverse population dynamics in the region, Africa and the world and by so doing strengthen the implementation of appropriate policies and programmes to improve the quest for poverty reduction.
* Sebedeus !Naruseb is employed by the International University of Management (IUM). The views expressed in this article are entirely his own. E-mail: email@example.com