Government, isn’t it time to clean up?

08 March 2020
Author   Wetumwene Shikage
Running errands in most government buildings is a nightmare.  Not only is the service poor, but most of these state-owned buildings are badly maintained, dark, and dirty.  It is no wonder many of the people working in such a negative climate are uncommitted, rude, or uncaring.
Our 30 year Independence Day is around the corner, can’t we take advantage of that great day to do some basic housekeeping and revamp our state-owned buildings?  Rather than handing out free food on one celebration day, let’s invest in having cleaning materials and staff to get government buildings working better.   Government, isn’t it time to clean up?
Government office buildings are supposed to be a clean, encouraging environment to go for service.  We should have confidence that those working behind the desks are efficient, trained, and ready to do their jobs.  However, seeing a filthy, poorly kept atmosphere, in government offices reflects the kind of service we can expect to receive. 
Whenever I see a new government building, I cannot help but wonder how long it will take for the ceilings to crack, paint to chip, light bulbs to blow out, toilets to back up and other things.  There is no consistent maintenance plan.  So, everything collapses in short order. 
Can they not get a broom and mop with cleaning liquids and get rid of the stale smells?  Why are the cleaners using such dirty water and filthy lops as they throw water on the floors?  Why aren’t the elevators working?  How come the chairs are all torn up, the computers are ancient and I see some sitting in corners with junk piled on top of them.  The windows of these buildings are so dirty you cannot see out of them and spider webs are everywhere.
Let’s have a positive, clean, upbeat environment to get the government services we need. Don’t we have enough negative news and poverty in our lives at home that we must go to get an ID or document from the government and see it there too? 
I postpone getting the government services I might need just to delay subjecting myself to those awful and dank office spaces.  Can’t we just think about serving the public and what that means? 
Do people have a mind about those who are waiting in line for services and have to be subjected to decay, dilapidation and uncleanliness?  While I wait in line for necessary services, must I stare into cracks on walls, bugs, rickety chairs, and floors that look brown which are actually a filthy white?  
Every wall in these buildings has old and dried out Prestik that has now turned brown after a notice was pasted onto a dirty wall.  There is decrepit cello tape on doors after an official has removed their notice about when they would be back in office.  There is old, cracked paint on the walls, and bubblegum stuck on the sides of benches with graffiti all over them.
Looking at school premises, you will notice how old some of the relatively newly constructed buildings look already. Paint is slowly chipping, cement floors and walls are cracking and fixtures are broken, Bathrooms no longer work.  Broken chairs and desks lay around in schoolyards. This is a depressing and miserable sight. It infects how you feel about yourself when you are forced to study in a filthy junk yard. 
Hospitals which are supposed to be the most hygienic and well-maintained places, and yet, they often tend to be very untidy. You can enter the casualty hall at the Katutura State hospital walking over someone’s dripped blood and when you walk out again, you will find the blood still sitting there.  No one cares to clean it.
Recently I went to the Windhoek central police station to collect my clearance certificate. I arrived at 9:30 in the morning. I left at midday after finally being told that, “the certificates were finished.” What rubbish is that?
I stood in a line that did not move for hours. During that long wait, I noticed a dripping pipe from the side of the wall that made water leak all over the floor. Absolutely nothing was done about it. People stepped into the water and made a mess all over the floor. This could have been stopped by putting a bucket down for the water to drip into while the pipe was being fixed. But, no one cared.
It is time to do things differently. The money used for ‘braai plates’ that are dished freely out on Independence Day can be put to better use. The government needs to come up with innovative new ideas to take better care of what we have. 
Government please listen:  do regular maintenance and hold people who break things on purpose, accountable.  We must do better. Just because we are poor does not mean we only deserve to be dirty.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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