The criminalisation of poverty in Katutura

12 August 2020 | Opinion

ELIFAS HELAO NGHITOMOKA



Have you ever wondered why there is always a large police presence visible in Katutura and not in other parts of Windhoek? The poor are being monitored constantly.

A simple conclusion is that if you have a higher presence of police in one area, more incidents will be reported. A false narrative is drawn that crime is higher in that area.

Many minor infractions, that in other areas would not be picked up, are reported in informal settlements, placing young lives into a criminal justice system that does not rehabilitate, but instead churns out hardened criminals.

The masses in Havana, Goreangab and Babylon have been living without basic services and have petitioned the City of Windhoek several times.

We were told there is no budget, yet the City of Windhoek seeks sponsorship from the Road Fund Administration for more police cars.

Did the City seek sponsorship for ablution facilities to service informal areas? Where is the appeal for donations to provide infrastructure for the street vendors?

Will the new police cars be available for our vendors to sell from? Will they be available for our people when they cannot afford the taxi money to get to work or the hospital?

Will they provide light at night when our children need to study? Will they help people fetch water easily? Will they be there to protect our women and young girls who get raped in the riverbeds or in the bushes when they use these as toilets?



Create opportunities

If the City is really serious about crime prevention, the best strategy is to create opportunities for all its inhabitants.

With electricity at home, the youth will be able to study without fear of knocking over a candle. They will go to university and prosper; they will not have time to engage in crime.

With land, people will be able to run their businesses without fear of eviction. They will start building their houses and employ others.



Disinterested in solving problems

The City seems disinterested in solving the problems of the poor, as clearly demonstrated when they arrested six citizens who were erecting a shack for a homeless man. City Police is not interested in protecting the poor, but rather enforcing arbitrary mandates that do not serve in the best interests of our community.

The City is expected to provide a conducive environment for all its inhabitants and having more police cars will not solve the crime problem. In fact, more crime will continue to emerge as long as what leads to crime is not addressed.

It is time the City looks at the majority of its residents as productive citizens, not only as a burden on resources.

We are people, we are residents of Windhoek, we are Namibians, and just because we live in a poor settlement does not mean we are poor in mind. We too can think for ourselves; we too contribute meaningfully to this city.

It is us who sweep the streets, allowing Windhoek to be declared one of the cleanest cities in Africa.

It is us who build the roads that allow everyone to travel through this great city and this land.

It is us who ensure businesses are safe and houses are clean and schools are painted. The City must create an environment for collaboration. With our unique skills and talents, we are more than ready to move our city forward.

*Elifas Helao Nghitomoka is a community activist and a resident of Havana in the Samora Machel constituency. He is a member of the Students Christian Movement.

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