Poverty, landlessness dampen independence celebrations

front UlengaActivists, political leaders and analysts say that the country’s 27th independence celebrations, slated for Rundu next Tuesday, will take place as the burning issues of landlessness and poverty, exacerbated by a predatory elite growing richer and richer, cast long shadows.
Former Congress of Democrats (CoD) leader, Ben Ulenga, who is also a former ruling party stalwart, claimed this week that the SWAPO Party leadership has moved away from its “historical objectives”.
“It seems the SWAPO leadership decided to revise the historical objectives of the organisation. With regard to land, there has been zero progress, aimed at correcting, at least partially, the land dispossessions of colonialism,” Ulenga said.
“The Red Line still exists, with all the negative political-economic implications to those who it was created to disadvantage. Education is severely underfunded, especially in rural areas.
“The national economic structures of colonialism are still intact; with permanent residents in the ‘labour reserves’, still leaving their families to seek employment in ‘white’ towns.
“Efforts toward nation-building have been minimal, and although people live in the same vicinity, there is no social mixing across language and cultural lines, and hardly any integration.
“Equitable sharing of resources, including land and minerals is non-existent. Poverty is rife and income differences unjustified,” Ulenga said.
SWAPO Party Secretary for Information, Helmut Angula, however, told the Windhoek Observer that the country has scored successes in developing and providing for its people.
“We have really scored great success in our development agenda, compared to the time when the SWAPO Government took over the reins from the apartheid regime.
“Today, there is just no comparison. Look at the national budget; it was N$7 billion then, today we are speaking about N$60 billion, and that will be spent to service and develop the country further.
“Look at our road network, telecommunication, healthcare and tertiary education facilities.
Compare the growth of Walvis Bay, Rundu and Oshakati from 1990. We have several uranium mines and access to water; indeed today we have better facilities that cannot be compared to when we gained our independence,” Angula said.
Human rights activist, Rosa Namises, said very little can be celebrated next week.
“As I look back, this was a country that was haunted by the apartheid regime; a country where movement was restricted; a country where, especially, the black people were not to use some of the services.
“We were a country engulfed with discrimination, as privileges were reserved only for certain people, and where health facilities were segregated, but now we have worked more on infrastructure and left housing behind.
“We were moved from one location in the past, so that after independence better houses can be built for people, but this has not been done, and this is the reason why we have so many shacks, with unhygienic conditions.
“We have denied citizens their land. We have not managed to capture the craftsmen that abused the people before independence, and we don’t see any possible solution to housing challenges; we only see flats that are mushrooming in the country. Who owns them? Are they paying tax? Who benefits from them?”
Namises added that what she sees is a country that has created wealth, only for a small group of people.
“What I see, is a small group creating wealth, only for themselves. In the fishing quotas there are discrepancies going on; no one benefits, but a few people. There is an equality problem in this country. Reconciliation is still far from being achieved, but all is not negative.
“I will celebrate for the elderly that are being recognised, the establishment of the Food Bank, the fact that we are a peaceful country, and not xenophobic, because we embrace foreigners,” Namises said.
DTA leader McHenry Venaani told the Windhoek Observer that Namibians should cherish Independence Day, while adding that the only thing that can be celebrated is freedom.
“If some of us can still remember back then, before independence, the rights to speak up, to criticise, to disagree, were not there. But now we have the freedom to do that. 
“But we are still far away from celebrating the achievements in this country. We have failed for 27 years; we have a backlog of unemployment, a backlog of training, a backlog of providing the ordinary people with basic utilities.
“The rich people are becoming richer, while the poor are becoming poorer. There is no economic liberty. But let us celebrate the day, it comes once a year and we should all cherish the freedom that we have,” Venaani said.