A young man last week lost his life in Walvis Bay over a vetkoek. He grabbed a vetkoek from a street vendor and while trying to get away to go and enjoy, which may have been his first eat in how many days, who knows, and indeed the last, he was hit by a car.
A sad story indeed! Many a times our government has been priding itself in the fact people in the country do not die from hunger. A young lad lost his life after grabbing something to eat which in the end he could not enjoy having met this unfortunate fate. This may to the apologists of the state of poverty and destitute which many a Namibian, especially the youth, find themselves in, but an isolated case of youthful misdemeanor and deliquency. But this incidence goes to the core of the experiences of many youths, and others, even the elderly, in the Namibian society. The real context thereof which is 28.7% of the population being poor with 15% being extremely poor. Poverty is higher in rural areas (37%) than in urban areas (15%) and high among women (32%) than among men (26%).
Thus this particular incidence is only a tip of the iceberg. In fact there is hardly a day that one opens a newspaper and does not read litanies of poverty as evidenced by such telltales of petty crimes like shoplifting, burglary, pickpocketing, scams, you name them. Not to mention serious crimes like murder, rape, robbery, stock theft, stabbing, all of them but pointers of a society loosing its ways, if it already it has not lost its ways.
Income poverty in Namibia was reported at 0.6666 according to the World Bank. Of the 2.5 million people, 17.4% were living below the poverty line in 2015 and 2016. There’s no reason to believe that this situation has since improved. On the contrary recent reports has it that the situation in the country has indeed worsened, even in terms of food security. As much as income inequality with Namibia, despite its middle income categorization internationally, being one of the most highly unequal society in terms of income. A situation which, for the last two years or so, due to the Corona pandemic, has not subsided or improved.
Granted that Namibia finds herself in this situation due to colonialism, especially Capitalism colonialism, there’s no denying that ideological disposition has been awfully lacking to, let alone arrest the situation, or reverse it. To say the least it is hard to point to any coherent policy since independence, meant to comprehensively and concretely address poverty and inequality, other than appeasement measures, to appease the masses and make their unbearable and unlivable conditions of poverty, gross inequality and destitute, as bearable and livable as possible.
The clarion call by the government, with the private sector squarely behind it, and understandably naturally so for its own survival, has been for more investment. It is not as if now and then new investments have not been trickling in, but their impact on poverty at best has been negligible, expectedly. Because the bottom line of capital and capitalists, have never been, is and shall never be to reduce inequality, let alone eventually eradicate it to pave the way for an unequal society, which is a Utopia under the capitalist mode of production.
Investments are there for the illusionary growth of the economy, marginally for that matter, for the profits of the would-be investors, and the continued exploitation of the workers, and the propping up of the exploitative capitalist mode of production.
Exploitation, inequality, poverty and squalor, among the masses, particularly the workers, on the one hand, and profits, opulence, decadence of the few are the two flip sides of capitalism.
Thus, however much policymakers would make the masses and workers believe, that they are fighting to alleviate poverty and inequality, this is not attainable under the current capitalist mode of production. It takes an altogether different production system other than the capitalist system to seriously make, if only the first small step towards poverty alleviation and the reduction of inequality.
Equally, it also takes an ideological paradigm shift, if only away from the current kleptocracy, which unashamedly is the trademark of the ruling elite, whatever their political and pseudo ideological hue. Ruling elite because this ugly phenomenon of kleptocracy has not been manifesting itself within the Swapo Party as a ruling party only, but each and every political party and/or formation that has had access to the reigns of governance and/or administration at whatever level, many a times had become guilty of kleptocracy.
Those who in this regard may as yet not have been in charge, can for now be excused, but as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
One would have to wait to see what exception to the rule they may turn out to be. One would have thought Namibia, being among the last if not the last colony on the African continent to gain independence, would have learnt a lesson or two from the experiences of many countries who gained independence before her. But thirty plus years, whatever the country may have learnt from such lessons have as yet to tangibly and visibly manifest themselves. In reverse what one has been seeing is retrogression.