Politics must not eclipse everything

01 September 2017
This economic crisis in Namibia is no joke.  People are struggling, whether they talk about it or not. 
I am beginning to feel however, that more attention is directed to political machinations than towards those who are losing their jobs and unable to pay their bills.  I urge our decision-makers to multitask in more obvious ways.  When times are uncertain, people need reassurance.
From what I have seen and heard over the last several months, people are talking more about their personal financial worries than about the upcoming ruling party congress or what the DTA leader is saying or who is head of NUNW or who won the SPYL elections or  land conferences.  I wonder if our leaders realize this.
It is not that I think our decision-makers don’t care about what ordinary people are going through, they do care.  But, I think they are distracted at a time when the country needs leadership, not political speeches.  People are nearing desperation levels to hear solutions and tangible ideas on how to make it through these temporary tough times. 
Change can be scary.  When people used to living at a particular level face negative lifestyle changes, they get worried and that worry can translate quickly into panic. 
The majority of workers in the country who are earning low levels of income or who are living on the edges of destitution might be pushed into darker financial realms very quickly if the part time or informal jobs they need to buy their food, vanish.  We need some innovative ideas about easing people’s worries and we need them fast.  People need viable options and opportunities.
There are people who have cut back from having their housekeepers full time to having them only one work day per week and some have severed them completely.  What are the repercussions on those household service providers who earned N$3,000 per month to support their families, but now earn only N$600? 
I get it - the congress in November is key for the future of the governance of the country.  I am an unimportant political meerkat, but I am a people-watching elephant.  For me, it is blessedly simple.  Those delegates to the congress should vote their consciences with choices of candidates presented and let the chips fall where they may.  ‘Nough said.
But, what about ordinary people living the results of the financial cutbacks?  I talked with some insurance agents and they were worried at the increased number of defaults and cancelled policies on their normally healthy commission sheets.  More people have stopped paying their premiums.  So, the agents’ commission income has taken a severe hit.  Independent agents are reducing staff.  So the receptionist that was making N$3500 per month, now is cut to part time at N$1500 or terminated straight out.  What is the impact of that reduction on her/her life?
Different people I know who work in administrations of independent schools have commented that they are experiencing more parents in arrears on school fees and a few are withdrawing their kids because they cannot pay anymore.
Every mall in Windhoek has shops that have closed down with fewer replacement stores opening up. These are shops that catered to the Angolans (who are more broke than we are) and the consumer classes.  Neither of these two groups has the same money now that they had 2-3 years ago.  Where are all the staff who used to earn their living in those stores? 
The new car industry must be sweating bricks.  With the law requiring a 10% down payment and the tightening of belts in the economy, coupled with no government car purchase tenders, owners of new car dealerships must be laying in their beds at night staring up at the ceiling instead of sleeping.  What happens to car salesmen now?  How about those working to keep the show rooms clean? 
Lifestyle changes due to the recession are happening all over the country.  The economic negative ripple effects of the cut backs, no tenders, unpaid/partially paid GRN invoices (though payments for construction invoices have been recently made), shut down/job layoffs at the SME Bank, threats about RCC closure, freezes on civil service hiring, and no new downstream GRN contracts for service work, are hitting the fan right now. 
Creative thinking is needed for small solutions that might offer some relief. 
Why not extend the tax amnesty until the end of the year.   Why not increase those who qualify for the Food Banks to those earning under N$1000 per month.
Let government re-drill existing boreholes that have gone dry or provide free tractors for anyone needing ploughing for their fields and even provide free seeds. 
Tell the municipalities to stop cutting people off from water and electricity services after 60 days in arrears and stretch that to 90 days, as long as a payment plan is in place.  Suspend all re-connection fees. 
Things are happening that are hurting basic, hardworking people.  Are we so concerned about party elections or what happed at a youth league convention or nullification of votes or whatever else, that we cannot keep at least one eye on financial worries slamming Namibian families, rural farmers and SMEs?
Our leaders should get on the radios weekly and give ideas to the people about how to cut back on expenses and yet still live a quality life.  There should be more regional visits from leaders, not to whip up votes for a congress or a land summits, but to keep people believing that this tight economic time is temporary. 
Having a respected leader showing his/her concern for individual household money problems will not solve everything, but it can make some of our fellow citizens feel better for at least one more day.


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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