Hundreds of thousands of Namibians continue to languish in extreme poverty, mainly due to the existing unequal income distribution regime. Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has warned that the situation is not sustainable.
Namibia is classified as a middle-income country. However, the income gap between the rich and poor remains one of the greatest in the world. The PM said there is a need for transformation in the manner in which natural resources are allocated in order to benefit everybody.
“The problem we have is that inequality is even [manifested] along tribal lines, but the transformation has to be done in such a way that it does not strain the economy or disadvantage those who are well-off,” Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said on Wednesday, when she met at her office a delegation of the National Youth Council (NYC) and the American Council of Young Political Leaders.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila stressed the fact that Namibia is a rich country in terms of resources, yet its people are desperately poor: “We need to find a way to redistribute wealth without destabilising the country. Everyone should get what they naturally deserve, because we cannot have a situation whereby some people prosper at the expense of others.”
When the National Planning Commission (NPC) published a review of poverty and inequality in 2008, it unearthed stark levels of inequality along racial and ethnic lines. The findings at the time were that poverty is most widespread amongst households where Khoisan-languages and Rukwangali are spoken, with 54 to 60 percent of those households affected by poverty, while German and English-speaking households are in the highest income bracket and hardly know the pain of poverty.
Tweya bemoans income inequality gap
Information Minister Tjekero Tweya also this week bemoaned the massive gap between low and high earners. Tweya was commenting on government’s plan to introduce a solidarity tax, through which it plans to rake in at least N$600
million a year to assist the poor.
“The problem is the gap between high-earning citizens and their low-earning counterparts,” Tweya said on Wednesday during a press meeting where he briefed the media on the outcome of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. Tweya stressed the need for the new tax, saying it would come in handy in helping poverty-stricken Namibians.
Windhoek’s segregation woes
Windhoek is also experiencing the highest rural-urban migration rate in Namibia. The situation has further exasperated the segregation of rich and poor in the city, with the rich living to the east and the poor to the west of the capital.
Informal settlements in the capital are home to over 100 000 people and in most cases basic services, such as water and sewerage are not provided for.
In Windhoek, the wealthy suburbs with large houses lie to the east, south and southwest, where leafy suburbs such as Auasblick, Kleine Kuppe and Olympia are situated. The northwestern part of greater Windhoek is where the majority of informal housing is located and this is where much of the population growth is taking place.
Residents of informal settlements generally make use of communal standpipes to access water and are forced to use the open field and bushes for ablutions.
The desperation for shelter in the capital is so extreme that many have resorted to putting up structures on pieces of land without authorisation. The municipality earlier this year announced that over 1600 leased erven are “unprocedurally occupied”.
The mushrooming of informal settlements is costing the municipality millions yearly, as people connect illegally to the electricity grid and in many cases make use of water services and infrastructure without charge.