Failure by their government to provide them with basic essentials and widespread hunger as a result of the drought ravaging southern Africa have been cited as the main reasons that over 100 Angolans crossed into Namibia recently in search of food, water and medical supplies.
The group that migrated from their oil-rich country into Namibia is currently camping along the road at Etunda near Ruacana, from where they commute to nearby green scheme farms to work in exchange for food.
“We work for food. Sometimes we just get onions and we will eat just that. If there is cabbage it is a bonus, but what can one do? We just eat what we get, because in Angola we did not have any food,” explained one elderly member of the group, Tuekopipa Katana.
Apart from working on the farms near Etunda some collect grass to sell to farmers, who travel vast distances in search of animal feed for their cattle and goats as the drought tightens its grip. Most of the migrants are women, whose younger children are camping with them. Some of the children are of school-going age.
“We came with our children, because if we leave them behind they will starve,” said Lahja Kovikolo, who hails from Otjitatu village near Calueque.
Avelina Katjipaleke said sometimes they sell the food to passers-by so that they can buy maize for the children, who cannot be expected to survive only on onions and cabbage.
The group, which crossed into Namibia illegally through the Calueque border area, is happy with the assistance they have received from the local people since their arrival in Namibia at the end of October.
“At least here we’re not hungry. The only challenge we have is water, because we drink water from the canal, but otherwise we are fine,” said Katjipaleke. They insist though that their stay is temporary, as they plan to return home for the festive season.
While these destitute Angolans have opted to migrate south, the so-called ‘struggle kids’ late in November threatened to return to Angola – on the very day that the rest of the country went to the polls on Friday. However, the leader of the group camping at the Swapo Party regional office, Tuhafeni Nhinda, confirmed yesterday that they were still in Oshakati.
“There was just a miscommunication, but once all that is sorted out all the struggle kids countrywide will march to Angola,” Nhinda said, adding that they are not afraid to starve in Angola, as they are already starving in Namibia.
Nhinda said they were not sure about where they would live in Angola, but said they were ready to stay anywhere, even if it meant camping on the Namibian-Angolan border.