On the 26th of August 1966, Namibia – through Swapo – officially launched its armed liberation struggle to free the nation from the South African colonial regime. The aim was to ensure that anyone who lived in the country enjoyed unfettered peace, economic prosperity, security and stability. The country’s natural mineral resources were to be at the centre of all this.
The armed liberation struggle lasted for over 21 years within which many sons and daughters sacrificed their lives for their motherland to be free from social injustice, racial discrimination and segregation. With that sense of patriotism Namibia eventually emerged victorious with the attainment of its national independence on the 21st of March 1990.
This year’s Heroes Day were held last Saturday in Oshana Region – another occasion where we needed to reflect on how history has helped shape Namibia into what it is today. While recognising the positives, let’s also not forget to cite the plight of those finding themselves in miserable living conditions which, if not aggressively addressed and reversed, could become a permanent sight and state for many generations to come.
In that historic context and link, it is hence my patriotic view that the current situation of large-scale informal settlements that have mushroomed across the country is a national disgrace, a shame and an insult to all those whose blood waters our freedom.
This sad state of affairs hence signals a complete systematic failure of leadership, especially for a nation with a mere population of less than 2.5 million people and our impregnable history of solidarity. Historically, Namibians have always been their brothers’ keepers.
Namibians deserve a lot better living conditions than the raw deal they are facing today. In this simple but highly complex situation no one else is to blame than the lukewarm political approach that is without any sense of urgency being used against the welfare and progress of the people.
In this regard, I would like to highlight two major contributing factors that in my view have led the nation to this despicable state of affairs whereby present day politicians do not even seem to have any tangible solutions. Firstly, party politics post-independence sadly divided the nation based on political loyalty, patronage and eventual tribal clusters to such an extent that national issues such as the fast-tracking of large-scale land servicing and distribution, inclusive of an absence of a nationalistic wealth redistribution policy for the welfare of the majority of the citizens, was no longer a priority.
This sad development resulted in Namibians losing determined national political champion(s) or leader(s) to drive the land and wealth redistribution issue as was supposed to be based on our history. At this juncture it is important to note that Namibians were pre-independence led by Dr Sam Nujoma through unity of purpose to liberate the country but we dispersed into various political units where the vision of nation building eventually disappeared due to a lack of strong political will to such an extent that everybody started looking after their own interest and political survival.
This sad political leadership vacuum eventually led to many citizens grabbing land in many urban areas.
Secondly, the absence of a national domestic sectoral industrialization drive that could lead to mass employment opportunities upon which many citizens could earn a decent living wage has exacerbated the situation.
Namibia, despite have a Vision 2030 industrialization plan, has not seriously looked at directly investing in large-scale manufacturing areas in which Namibians as a nation could easily venture into, such as the manufacturing of products for government institutions such as for schools, the army, police force, nurses, hospitals, in products such as furniture, uniforms, beds, bed sheets, curtains, benches, welding.
The government could have also contributed significantly to the agricultural sector whereby directives could be issued whereby all government institutions such as schools, army, hospitals, police force procure all or most (at least 70%) of their poultry and basic agricultural products such as onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, including daily products such as milk, strictly from local sources. This directive could have incentivized large-scale local investment in the agricultural sector as a guaranteed market is secured due to the directive.
So, despite huge potentials in the abovementioned production areas, the country is still importing large-scale basic industrial essentials which could have easily been manufactured locally. This sad situation hence perpetuates Namibia as a consumption country with no clear intentions to manufacture anything of significance for domestic building. This lack of a large-scale industrialization initiative continues to contribute to low wages in the domestic economic system leading many to opt for informal settlement.
In conclusion, Namibia based on its strong history and pre-independence determination, was never supposed to have informal settlements especially at the scale and scope that it is in currently. These settlements are certainly degrading, totally inhuman and an insult to many voters who despite their loyalty to the ruling party still find themselves in these despicable living conditions. The nation needs to revert back to its initial goals of creating an environment that will propel prosperity for all and a dignified living standard.
* Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian Socio-Economist.