13 December 2012

Namibia: 'Struggle Kids' Survive On Seedpods

Windhoek — A great deal of uncertainty on how the 'struggle kids' are supposed to survive at the Ndilimani Cultural Group farm has forced them to survive on an excess of discarded animal fat and intestines collected from a nearby abattoir.

They also survive by eating camelthorn seedpods. People normally collect bags of seedpods from the camelthorn tree to sell as supplement for domestic livestock, such as goats and cattle. Once they collect the excess animal fat and intestines, they first dry them to prevent them from becoming rancid.

Since the group of over 100 'children' of the liberation struggle were relocated to the Ndilimani farm some 10 kilometres outside Windhoek five months ago, no one has taken responsibility for providing them with food and other basic necessities.

Only 95 out of 195 'struggle kids' managed to get employment in the different ministries and parastatals since they staged a demonstration at the Swapo Party headquarters in July this year. The remaining 'struggle kids' are still in limbo at the farm and stare a bleak festive season in the face unless someone comes to their rescue.

Khomas Regional Council chairperson Zulu Shitongeni, who is also the Tobias Hainyeko Constituency councillor has been tasked to spearhead the committee to look into their plight until they all secure jobs. At the time of their relocation, government said the 'struggle kids' were to stay at the farm until October 17, meaning all of them would have been placed in jobs by then.

When New Era visited the farm on Tuesday they milled around idly with many of them anticipating a truckload full of food and other basic necessities to be dropped off for them. When they realised it was New Era, they rushed to unlock the gate saying they wanted to air their grievances, but were warned by Shitongeni never to contact the media.

"They (government) dumped and forgot us here. Zulu said we must never talk to the media. No one brings us food anymore. We go and beg the owner of Indraai Abattoir nearby to give us the animal fat and intestines instead of throwing them away, so we can cook and eat. Life has become so hard that we started consuming camelthorn seedpods (omaakashala) like goats," charged a group member who refused to be named fearing reprisals from the powers that be.

The group is very worried about how they will survive the festive season, because the abattoir will close on December 20. "When it closes then we will starve to death, because people will close for Christmas. We are homeless and many of us here are orphans of the liberation struggle. We don't have families to go to. We will continue eating omaakashala," said the group spokesperson, Hilma Pontu. They accused the committee headed by Shitongeni of "sidelining their plight by offering jobs meant for them to outsiders".

"Work is there. To whom did they give our 3 000 posts while we are still employed? We want the jobs that were promised to us. We have evidence of information released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry showing the availability of vacancies that were specifically allocated to us. We want to know who filled those posts," Pontu queried on behalf of the group.

Yesterday morning the group marched to the Government Office Park seeking answers from the agriculture mininstry. The police monitoring the marchers contacted Shitongeni, who is supposed to provide the 'struggle kids' with appointment letters.

Shitongeni said he was on his way to the Ndilimani farm to deliver a batch of appointment letters for 'struggle kids'.

"I cannot see them because the demonstration is illegal. I only have 27 appointment letters for those kids accepted at the agriculture ministry. And if they do not go back, their letters will lay idle in the offices of the Khomas Regional Council until next year," Shitongeni said.

In an attempt to survive they have also resorted to collecting firewood to sell in order to buy basics such as relish and maize meal.

They sell firewood for N$10 a bundle. Reminiscent of life in the refugee camps in exile they have organised themselves and allocated tasks such as policing, preparing meals and collecting firewood to different members. They also have a roll call every morning.

There are close to 20 rooms for the group to share and no proper toilet facilities or electricity. The only few toilets available do not flush. Shitongeni said they are to blame for the appalling conditions they live in. "We had an agreement with them that they will all be allocated by October 17 so that they can go home and wait for their appointment letters. That is why it is not government's mandate to continue feeding them, because the date has lapsed. We were only feeding and checking on their health until the agreed date of October 17," he said.

The councillor also denied he told them not to talk to the media. "I can't threaten them. I only told them that they are not the only 'special children'. There are many other unemployed youths across the country, who need work as well. We told them not go too much to the media, because they will create more problems making other youths to complain," Shitongeni stressed.

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