Windhoek — Tobias Hainyeko Councillor Zulu Shitongeni is using his entertainment allowance to buy gardening tools, seeds and manure to help needy residents in his constituency.
The entertainment allowance is a monthly stipend pocketed by VIPs in government such as councillors, governors and government ministers. In an interview with New Era on Friday, Shitongeni said most of the people he supports with his personal income are tuberculosis patients (TB) and people living with HIV, as well as orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).
Shitongeni noted that he decided to donate his own pocket money because of poverty and unemployment which normally lead people to drinking out of of sheer frustration and desperation.
The Tobias Hainyeko constituency Councillor, who is also the Khomas Regional Council chairperson, said TB infection rates are unusually high in the constituency.
He attributed the problem mainly to poverty and unemployment and poor sanitation. "Because of poverty and unemployment, people end up drinking alcohol. And they don't just drink any alcohol like beer, they consume a lot of traditional brews. They end up drinking too much because they have no work," he explained.
Now thanks to Councillor Shitongeni some TB and HIV/AIDS patients are doing what many consider to be the impossible - they are running a gardening project that is producing cabbage, beetroot and red beans. He said the patients work in the garden themselves in order to sustain their daily needs, as well as the needs of OVC living in the area.
"Only some patients with TB are working in the garden. But they are all benefiting. They pay themselves after they sell the vegetables," said Shitongeni. He said the garden is situated near a busy fish shop and this caused some problems as some people started to steal the veggies. "When people buy fish they walk through the garden and they damage the young veggies, or steal some of the produce," he said.
There are close to 14 informal settlements in the Tobias Hainyeko Constituency, which is said to be the most densely populated constituency in the Khomas Region and apart from that it has the highest household occupancy rate. According to the 2011 National Population and Housing Census, Tobias Hainyeko Constituency has about 57 000 inhabitants.
Out the 57 000, 32 000 are women and 25 000 are men. Shitongeni further said that currently about 48 TB patients come to the constituency office for food before they take their daily medication.