The new normal must include support

Jackie Wilson Asheeke

The new normal must have a requirement that each person is our sister and brother’s keeper. We must move outside of selfishness and into a new world of standing together. If we cannot do this, anger will permeate the ‘newness’ of the normal.

I read about a woman named Wilhelmina Afrikaner in Windhoek’s Dolam area who runs a self-initiated hostel where she takes care of young children in need. She gives them food, a fire to warm their hands and a place of safety. And yet, our dearly beloved City of Windhoek gave her a bill for water and electricity for N$40,000. Have the people in that new fancy municipal building lost their minds?

I abhor hand-outs and freebees for the able-bodied and sound of mind. But, I cheer charity. We cannot exist as a community without caring. There are those among us who will always need assistance and they must get it – no strings attached! There are those who are trying like Mrs Afrikaner. We must give them hope and help. These are the people who deserve a handout.

Most Namibians, sadly, have been taught to DO and not to THINK; therein lies most of our program implementation problems. People can repeat something they have been told to do from a list. But, they cannot think about solutions when life intervenes and trashes their checklist. No one wants to take responsibility or make choices as people around them play the blame game too often. People hate to be criticised and would rather suffer than risk it. So, no decisions about solutions get made. Time and resources are wasted.

I am reminded of a story from a workshop. A man was taught to draw water from the well with a bucket he was given. Over time, the bucket developed serious holes and leaked badly. Still, he would draw the water as he was taught. He filled the bucket and walked the short distance back to his home. By the time he got to the pot where his wife needed to cook, there was only a trickle of water left in the bucket. Rather than fixing or replacing the bucket or thinking about another workable solution, he increased his trips to the well as he was taught. Eventually, with many trips, he filled the pot. His wife could cook dinner. The man was too tired to do anything else except draw water from the well all day and all night. Then, the food ran out and there was no need to draw water anymore.

All too often, people increase trips to the well, never once thinking about a new solution.

Analyse all the above with Wilhelmina Afrikaner in Dolam with her N$40,000 City of Windhoek bill in mind. Where is the new plan to help people who are at least trying to do something important at a grassroots level? We must THINK.

Our decision-makers, the previously advantaged and rich business people with connections are happily detached from Mrs Afrikaner’s world. They are busy living their best life. This is why programs installed, are from a top-down perspective with the assistance rarely reaching those who really need it. Programs must link with those living the battle for life every day. Their needs as they define it must drive the assistance they are offered.

We need accountability and organization. But, we take things too far. If that woman in Dolam tried to set up something formal to take care of kids, she would not qualify. There would be a ton of paperwork. There would be social workers, health workers, city inspectors, regulatory enforcers, jealous neighbours, and a partridge in a pear tree.

She’d need to register as a charity or a CC and get a certificate of fitness. She’d have to have good standing clearances and registrations for social security. This level of bureaucracy for the sake of paperwork must change.

The new normal means must mean verifying the woman’s plight. Then, an option could be to take what she needs for her municipal bill, directly from the CoW CEO’s salary (N$300,000 per month). N$40,000 less for him will only make a small dent in his elite lifestyle, but it might feed cold and hungry children. We have to THINK, not just DO.

We had better give a damn about people in need (not only our families and fellow language group members!) and be practical about giving assistance. Otherwise, the new normal could be fuelled by old rage.

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