November 19, 2004.  

by Denver Isaacs


published by TerraViva Europe


WINDHOEK (IPS) - As preliminary results for Namibia's general elections started trickling in Thursday, Hifikepunye Pohamba of the ruling South West Africa People's

Organisation appeared to have taken an early lead in the presidential poll.


The Southern African country cast ballots Monday and Tuesday to elect a successor to veteran leader Sam Nujoma. Parliamentary and regional council polls were also held.


Pohamba, the overwhelming favourite ahead of voting, appears set to continue the policies initiated by Nujoma - who still looms large in the Namibian political landscape.


While this continuity is doubtless welcome to some - others may feel that the country's declining educational standards, lack of houses and jobs, and AIDS pandemic

require innovative solutions.


”The government will have to look into the problem of joblessness. Many people have unpaid water and electricity bills because they don't work, which results in them

being thrown out of their houses in order for the municipality to recover their debt,” says Jesaja Mangeri, a resident of the high-density suburb of Katutura in the capital,



Adds community activist Jade McClune, ”People are no longer fighting for better wages. They're now fighting for life and survival.”


McClune works for Ada /Gui, an organisation that caters for senior citizens and destitute children in Katatura and Khomasdal - another high-density suburb of Windhoek.

Ada /Gui means ”let us unite” in the language spoken by Namibia's Damara and Nama peoples.


Klaus Schade, a senior researcher at the Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit, says government needs to emphasise the alleviation of poverty and inequality.


”One has to take priorities seriously and allocate funds according to needs. If there is a loss of revenue, reduction of grants should first be looked at in sectors that are not

of main interest, or where reduced funding will not have such a strong impact,” he notes.


The AIDS pandemic has revealed widening cracks in the country's health infrastructure as people complain of little or no facilities where treatment can be administered, and

a lack of drugs and medical personnel. HIV prevalence amongst Namibia's 1.8 million people is put at about 22.5 percent.


”We will continue to emphasise preventative health care as much as curative heath care. Hospitals, health centres and clinics are at the maximum and we will strive to

upgrade these facilities in order to modernise them,” says Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, secretary for information and mobilisation at the ruling party.


While the health sector received the second-largest allocation in the 2004/05 budget (14.8 percent), not all communities see the benefit of this.


Residents of the Otjinene settlement, almost 300 kilometres east of Windhoek, say that they have only one health centre, which caters for an area that includes some

2,000 people. And, the facilities that available are far from adequate, they complain.


”This centre cannot accommodate people to sleep over like a normal hospital,” says Sylvia Kahipura, an Otjiene resident. ”People also can't give birth here; one has to go

to either Gobabis and Otjiwarongo, or even Windhoek.”


Tumbiaa Kakujaha, a mother of two, says that medicine is not always available at the health centre. ”The only thing you are given is painkillers and then they will tell you

to go and buy medicine in the shops to help yourself. If you try to comment, they will answer you like you are nothing.”


Communities' cries that their lives are changing for the worse are borne out by a 2004 paper released by the Windhoek-based Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR),

'Have Priorities Changed? Budget Trends Since Independence'. (Namibia gained independence in 1990.)


According to the IPPR, ”The mid-1990s seemed to mark a turning point in the emphasis of public spending with more being spent on defence, paramilitary security,

intelligence, medical aid for public servants, parastatals and public debt and less being spent on education, health, agriculture and housing services for the wider



Budget analysis done by the IPPR recognises that the increase in allocations for social security and welfare (from a 5.6 percent allocation of state spending in 1990/91 to

7.7 percent in 2004/05) reflects a certain commitment to fighting poverty.


Nonetheless, it cautions that ”overall there is every sign that public spending is becoming more rather than less inequitable.” (END)


Günther Manske

Dr. Günther Manske


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