Little hope for change

Basic needs are what many in informal settlements struggle to secure each day, with many believing that voting on 27 November will not change their circumstances.

31 October 2019 | Local News

As Namibians get ready to head to the polls, residents of one of Windhoek's most poverty-stricken informal settlements say they don't hold out much hope for change once they have cast their votes.

They claim it will be business as usual after the elections, despite the political promises offering solutions to the mushrooming shack communities, which were declared a national humanitarian crisis by President Hage Geingob.

“I think I will vote and maybe there is change, but I really don't think so,” Chris Mukandi (31), who lives in a two-room shack with five others in Havana informal settlement, told Namibian Sun.

Standing by his shack, Mukandi, told Namibian Sun he rarely uses one of the nearby communal toilets, which he estimates around 100 people use.

“I am forced to use the bushes.”

Mukandi, who moved to Windhoek 15 years ago from Okakarara, says he has little hope that his current living situation will change after the elections, or in the long-term.

“Maybe in another world they will solve the problem of shacks, but not now.”



Dire

While the Windhoek municipality estimated in January there are around 131 000 individuals living in unserviced areas in the city, the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) said their most recent count indicated 71 336 shacks in which 327 083 live without access to basic services in Windhoek alone.

In January, the municipality warned that the conditions in which people live in informal settlements meet the definition of “a slum”, as they lack durable housing, sufficient living spaces, easy access to safe water and adequate sanitation, and lack security of tenure.

Moreover, the city pointed out that the conditions have led to the rampant hepatitis E outbreak.

Of the suspected 6 527 hepatitis cases reported countrywide by the start of October, 4 052 were reported mainly in the Havana and Goreangab informal settlements in Windhoek.

The municipality warned that the growth of informal settlements “is so rapid that it exceeds the City of Windhoek's ability to respond timeously”. Moreover, failure to meet the basic needs of the residents could lead to “disregard of the law, a sharp rise in crime and civil unrest”.



Nightmare

Basic needs are what many in informal settlements struggle to secure each day.

Water and food are his two biggest worries every day, Andi Canini told Namibian Sun last week. Canini, who is wheelchair-bound, lives in a small, one-room shack in Havana and depends on small donations to survive. His worldly belongings are the torn clothes he wears and a pair of crutches. The wheelchair is on loan from the hospital.

He moved from the Kavango Region to Windhoek more than 30 years ago, but says since then he only had one job, which he lost when the centre for disabled persons where he worked closed down.

He says even if he votes next month, he does not expect any changes.

“I am hopeless. I can't say I have any dreams left.”

Daphne Gamies (47), a community leader in Havana, says nothing has changed in Havana since she moved to Windhoek 24 years ago in search of a job.

The only notable change is the hepatitis E outbreak residents now face, she says.

“What has changed for us in the past 29 years? What development has taken place here? I have no hope left. Every time they promise toilets, and more. Each time we only get promises, and then nothing.”

Gamies says while the biggest challenges are food and access to clean water, owning a plot of land to build a home could dramatically change her quality of life.

“A home would mean happiness, even if it's just a small two-bedroom house.”

Monika Hamunyela (46), a neighbour of Mukandi, who shares her shack with her two sons and brother, says in order to survive, she gets up at 04:00 every morning to fetch wood from a nearby farm, which she then sells. The wood gathering is illegal, so she has to ensure she is not caught by the owner of the land or the police. “I struggle to buy food. They don't want us to collect the wood, but I have no choice.”

Hamunyela moved to Windhoek “a long time ago” in search of a better future.

She will vote, because she says she remains hopeful for change, despite misgivings, but added she is wallowing in poverty.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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