THE national cultural festival at the Katutura Youth Complex in Windhoek turned out to be a flop, with scheduled performances boycotted by visiting groups and striking drivers not taking performers to the event.
The Directorate of National Heritage and Culture Programmes in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture hosted the festival to encourage Namibians from different cultural backgrounds to show mutual respect and understanding.
A total of 65 cultural groups from all 13 regions were billed to show their cultures at the centre. There were also exhibits of traditional medicine, food, clothes, arts and crafts by the National Museum of Namibia.
The festival was supposed to be the culmination of 13 regional cultural festivals that were held throughout the year, but was a disappointment to many who came from the regions.
The event was poorly attended throughout and from the start The Namibian was inundated with complaints about the organisation.
When The Namibian visited the stadium on Saturday at 09h00, nothing was happening. When we arrived again at 15h00, vendors were packing up as there were no visitors and the groups that were supposed to perform did not make it to the stadium.
“We are not happy about this, we came from the south, east and west to see our families and friends perform but no one came to the stadium because they are waiting for food. We come here using taxi money and then we get here and nothing is happening,” a group of women and children complained to The Namibian.
The bus drivers who were supposed to transport participants to the stadium went on strike because the ministry failed to provide them with S&T allowances for travelling from the regions.
Petrus Siyamba, a driver from the Caprivi Region, said they had filled in their S&T forms three times.
“Our journey began on December 4 from Katima Mulilo, we slept in Grootfontein and arrived in Windhoek on the fifth. Upon our arrival, we were told that we should not touch their food and we should find our own accommodation because they are going to pay us,” said Siyamba.
“Later in the evening, me and my colleagues were told that our claims had not reached the office in Windhoek and we had to reapply.
“I took two patients to Katutura Hospital on Wednesday at 19h00 and since they were not treated early, I waited for the nurses until four in the morning, so I slept in the bus until sunrise on an empty stomach.”
He said the drivers and the sport officials from the different regions had a meeting on Saturday and “we decided we were not going to drive if we had not received our payment”.
Vendors who had hoped to make a profit during the festival also expressed disappointment with the poor attendance.
“I feel very bad and disappointed because I brought food to sell and the people did not come. Yesterday [Friday] business went well and I went back home with empty bags but today I didn’t even make a N$50 profit,” complained Mary Kwandu.
Contacted for comment, the deputy director of culture in the Ministry of Youth, Andre Strauss, refused to comment over the phone and invited the reporter to his office today.