A battle we must win

06 February 2019 | Opinion

Weekly crime reports in Namibia are horrific reads.

From people being attacked over measly amounts of money like N$10 and N$30, to the proliferation of stabbings, robberies, rapes and murder, it is safe to say that Namibians can rightfully feel unsafe in their own country. This feeling of unease permeates across the various strata of society, and a holistic approach is needed to tackle the growing spectre of violent crime.

Criminologists argue that economic anxiety leads to property crime and more domestic violence, as well as a greater consumption of mind-altering substances, leading to more violence in general.

On the other hand, economists tend to argue the opposite. Generally they claim that in better economic times there are more shiny new smartphones and tablets, more new cars sitting unattended in parking lots and more big-screen TVs in homes to steal. Better economic times, economists contend, also mean more of a demand for drugs and alcohol, and the attendant violence that often accompanies their consumption.

Be that as it may, there is a worrying trend of violent crime increasing in Namibia.

Many see alcohol and drugs at the root of this, but what about economic inequality, which is rife in Namibia?

A World Bank study found that crime rates and inequality are linked within countries and also between nations. The correlation is a causation - inequality induces crime rates.

Though, as many have argued over the years, Namibia has comprehensive social safety nets, such transfers only address the symptoms.

The causes of poverty and inequality must therefore be attacked with vigour. This can only happen if the poor have access to quality public services such as education, healthcare, housing, water and sanitation, decent jobs, land and other means of wealth creation.

The so-called Gini coefficient is thus not just a statistical measure of how income or wealth is distributed among a country's residents, it has real impacts in terms of the wellbeing of a nation, especially when it comes to violent crime and its causes.