Arresting children and adults onWindhoek streets not the solution – Mayor

Martin Endjala

City of Windhoek (CoW) Mayor, Queen Kamati, says arresting children and adults spotted on the streets of the capital city selling goods or begging for money amongst others, is not the solution.

She called for concerted efforts from various stakeholders to provide solutions to deal with the situation.

“Even if we remove these people from the streets by arresting them, where do we take them and what is the way forward? This is why we need collective efforts to tackle this problem, whether long-term or short-term, but there must be a framework in place to map the road ahead,” she said yesterday during a consultative meeting held at the City of Windhoek Council chambers on the status of children and adults working and living on the street of Windhoek.

Of late, an alarming number of children and adults both Namibians and foreign nationals are reported to be living on the streets and begging for money, which prompted various members of the public to call on the government to find a solution.

As a result, the CoW called for a consultative meeting with various stakeholders to find solutions to the matter. While also calling on the central government to step in where the responsibilities of the CoW end according to respective mandates.

According to the Kamati, Windhoek has long been known for its cleanliness, vibrant culture, economic development, and diverse population.

However, in recent years, an alarming trend has emerged with the mushrooming of suspected homeless Namibians and foreign nationals.

She said some of these groups of people are observed to be engaged in criminal activities such as robberies, house break-ins, loitering, traffic obstruction, and illegal trading, amongst others.

“This state of affairs poses a significant challenge to the social well-being, of not only themselves but also of residents and visitors within the Windhoek jurisdiction.

These groups are reported to experience challenges which include, limited access to essential services such as education, and healthcare, which goes against their rights to basic amenities, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia,” she argued.

Due to the combined effect of these groups of people, she noted that there is a demand for urgent intervention from all relevant stakeholders.

As a result, the Council conducted a preliminary investigation on these vulnerable groups and compiled a report. This preliminary investigation aimed to examine the living and working conditions of adults and children on the streets of Windhoek, with a specific focus on both Namibian citizens and foreign nationals.

To examine the legal status and compliance of foreign nationals among the street-dwelling population, to conduct a preliminary assessment of signs and symptoms of the physical and mental health status of adults and children living on the streets, as a result of factors such as malnutrition, substance abuse, and mental health challenges.

Kamati pointed out that the investigation yielded saddening and disturbing results, exposing the deplorable living conditions of these people.

These groups of people are said to live in dilapidated, abandoned houses, on the street, under bridges, in open areas, and riverbeds, and make a living. Their day-to-day activities also include conducting illegal car washes.

Working as car guards, begging for money, scavenging in rubbish bins and at refuse dumping sites, and food outlets at busy street intersections, selling items such as recharge vouchers and perishable food items like maize and cold meat products amongst others.

Alarmingly, the said groups of people are now also involved in criminal activities such as street robberies, theft out of motor vehicles, fighting, house break-ins, harassment, loitering, littering, vandalism, and traffic obstruction amongst others.

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