Continued budgetary constraints in the country and a need to follow established programme rules have obligated Government to remove about 7000 households or nearly 24,000 people from the food bank list.
This has raised concerns about whether the criteria for inclusion on the list are too restrictive given the real poverty that people face.
The removal of the families’ follows an assessment by the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare after it emerged that several people on the existing list of food bank recipient households had understated or under-declared their income in order to qualify as beneficiaries.
Since January, the ministry has been re-registering beneficiaries and removing names of those they found to be earning incomes higher than the rules of the programme allow. Currently, only household incomes below N$400 qualify to benefit from the food bank in this pilot phase of the programme.
The Windhoek Observer reported in July that some people earning above N$400 had taken advantage of the free groceries and ‘managed’ to get themselves included on the list of recipients.
Some of the people on the list owned taxis and shebeens while others are police and army officers.
The ministry carried out investigations on some of the people after it surfaced that employed residents including civil servants had registered as beneficiaries of the poverty alleviation initiative.
Inclusions of households that do not fit the criteria have put a unsustainable strain on the programme, causing those who do qualify to face possible cutbacks.
In an exclusive interview with the Windhoek Observer this week, food bank consultant, Angel Fernandez, said the ministry had decided to stop giving food parcels to some previous beneficiaries due to financial constraints that the country is currently facing.
He said the ministry had commissioned the University of Namibia’s Multi-disciplinary research centre to carry out an impact analysis study to determine the impact of the food bank pilot project.
The results of the assessment are expected to provide the ministry with lessons which will be valuable to guide the further expansion of the programme to other regions.
“Only 70,000 people are left on the list now, so depending on how the economic situation pans out, we will have to consider a way forward,” Ambassador Fernandez said.
Those who have been removed from the list are, however, not taking the decision lightly.
Moses Garoeb constituency councillor, Fanuel Shivute, said some of the people who have been removed from the list have been storming his office almost on a daily basis.
Shivute said the process has not been easy because although these people are better off than others, they still have real needs.
There are some complaining that the N$400 per household ceiling is too low. They assert that larger families live together to survive and may earn a combined amount higher than that, but not enough to feed everyone properly and manage the other living needs that have become unaffordable.
“Complaining is always there, some people have big families and it is not easy to manage, but there is nothing we can do because Government money is down again,” Shivute said.
In an earlier interview, Shivute said that it had become difficult to control the situation as everyone felt that they should be benefiting. People will always find ways to get something free. The challenge is to have a set system, clearly inform the public, and then consistently police its fair and equitable implementation.
President Hage Geingob launched the first-ever food bank in the country last year as a pilot project in Windhoek.
The food bank initiative involves the sourcing and distribution of food and non-food items to the extremely needy.
Only those households whose total per capita monthly income is below N$400 were supposed to benefit from the food bank.
The monthly packages include maize meal, tinned meat and fish, cooking oil, beans, yeast, flour, brown sugar and a bar of soap. The value of each parcel is about N$550.
Previously, the food bank was benefiting a combined total of 22,354 households and 94,536 individuals.
It remains unclear whether the ministry will still be able to roll out the exercise to other regions as previously reported.
Fernandez said it was difficult to ascertain anything before knowing the results of the assessment exercise which will only come out in the next two weeks.
The Poverty Ministry received an additional N$41 million for social grants in the mid-term budget presented last week.
Currently only Windhoek’s Tobias Hainyeko, Samora Machel, Moses Garoeb, John Pandeni, Katutura East, Katutura Central and Khomasdal constituencies are benefiting from the food bank pilot project.