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Chief warns Govt against food discrimination

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THE government should not discriminate when distributing drought relief food and should also not only provide relief during election years.

This was said by chief Rukambe Uazukuani of the Okamatapati area in the Okakarara constituency of the Otjozondjupa region, who was recently reacting to media reports on food becoming increasingly out of reach for more than half the population.

A recent Afrobarometer survey shows that more than half of Namibians repeatedly went without basic necessities in 2021, placing them in the category of ‘moderate lived poverty’ or ‘high lived poverty’.

The survey found that 64% went without enough food in the past year.

Other reports put the figure at about 1,5 million Namibians.

Uazukuani said the government’s drought-relief deliveries to his area with around 3 000 people has been erratic, and when it finally comes, it is given to San families only, yet the area has many tribes, with the dominant one being the Ovaherero.

“We have starving families from other tribes who depend on a pensioners’ grant for survival because of unemployment, and such people need government help.

“Looking at the figure of 1,5 million people shows that it’s not only the San who need food, but about half of Namibians,” he said, adding these are red flags the government should not ignore.

“The government should not wait for an election year to help needy people. It should be a continuous government obligation to feed the hungry,” he said.

Uazukuani said the situation in his area has been worsened by the fact that they did not get much rainfall to sustain rain-fed agricultural projects, and that their crops wilted mid-season, resulting in no harvests.

“Our only source of water is NamWater, and this cannot be used for backyard gardens because the water is expensive. Already many people in the community owe NamWater large sums of money,” he said.

He said the mainstay of the Okamatapati community is their livestock when prices are good, but the prices currently offered are so low that farmers are reluctant to sell.

Uazukuani expressed gratitude to a company called Palm for Life, which has distributed N$500 vouchers among community members.

“However, this comes once in about three months and is only for the San in line with the government model,” he said.

The chief said as traditional leaders, they do not have the funds to help their communities.

“Even those chiefs who are on a government salary of N$2 000 cannot help their people with that,” said the chief, who is employed in the Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs’ human resources department.

He has approached councillors in the area for a solution, he said, but they too said they did not have a budget to initiate projects and were waiting for the government to release funds to them.

He said he has also approached a conservancy in the area with the hope it would at least kill an elephant or kudu to feed the people – even if only for a day – but the conservancy said it did not have any animals to slaughter.

The conservancy promised to approach Waterberg, the main game park in the area, for help, he said.

The chief said besides limited rainfall, the other challenge the community faced was drought.

Uazukuani urged the government to provide tractors to help them prepare their fields.

He said if he had the power to change anything, he would limit the operating times of bars to curb alcohol abuse, and initiate programmes for boys to bring them on par with girls.

He said as part of the Chief’s Council under the Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA), they have initiated countrywide projects, starting with a poultry project at Opuwo, and will move to other regions.

Uazukuani said the OTA would soon launch its five-pillar programme of governance and institutional capacity of the traditional authority, well-being and education, resilience, livelihood and economic advancement, genocide and restorative justice, and stakeholder relations and engagement.

– email: [email protected]



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