Anger mounts over food distribution

By Maria Kandjungu and Maria Hamutenya

KHOMAS Governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua says that she will take it upon herself to meet aggrieved communities in the region to hear their cries with regard to food relief distribution.

This came following an outcry from residents who accused councillors of corruption and unfair food distribution. Chaos erupted in front of the governor’s office last Saturday after members of various constituencies were wrongly informed via national radio that her office was distributing food to those in need.

“When we were sending people back to their constituencies to register as beneficiaries, they were refusing saying their councillors are corrupt and unfair, those were the chanting we were hearing. So yes, we are aware of the allegations and my position is to bring harmony and a proper working environment for our people.

“You have constituencies where people are not talking, [but] trading insults and so on. So if a constituency has a problem they should reach out to the chairperson of the regional council. That is the person who is above the councillor and she may request my intervention.”

The governor added that while she deals with lists of beneficiaries, she is readily available to meet constituency members in the presence of their councillors to hear their problems and find amicable solutions.

She further told Confidente that she has so far visited the Katutura Central Constituency and Moses Garoeb Constituency upon invitation from residents.

“The problem really is that we do not have enough food to feed those in need. The donations we are getting are just a drop in the ocean. We had about 58 000 people registering for food relief. Of those, 35 000 have been verified and qualify for donations in Khomas region. But we have only done donations to 7 210 people so far… that is where the crack is… The number of those in need are higher than the food available.”

Complaints of negligence, tribalism, corruption and favouritism by constituency councillors have been raging, especially since the lockdown. Tobias Hainyeko Constituency Councillor Christof Likuwa is among those who have reportedly been under fire, with some community leaders accusing him of negligence.

Community development committee member Isack Kharob told Confidente that some of the burning issues faced by the community include the distribution of ervens, the distribution of information regarding new community development programmes and projects that seem to be hidden from certain ethnic groups, who end up not benefiting.

“The tribal issue around this community is a ticking bomb. The councillor does not want to address it but it is here. Go ask the Damara community, they will tell you they are left out and ignored and every time I bring it up at councillors’ meetings, they say I am problematic.”

Kharob added that when there are announcements regarding certain issues or distribution of food, the councillor only uses Oshiwambo and Kavango radio stations to disseminate the information, thus leaving the other groups in the dark.

“I told him (the councillor) that I could do the Damara and Afrikaans announcements since I am the only Damara [who is] part of the committee but he refuses to let me tell the people and at times leaves me in the dark too.

“Sometimes I hear about projects from other councillors and when I enquire I will find registrations all done. Some community members come to ask me why I haven’t told them anything, but I usually have no idea since I’m excluded from most of the council meetings,” Kharob added.

He further complained that the SME project and the Harambee food distribution programme only benefits specific ethnic groups, who have relations with community leaders while the rest of the community is left out.

“When the Small Medium Enterprises [project] was implemented, the Community Development Committee (CDC) was supposed to meet and choose people. We never met, I just saw people benefiting but when you question these things you are the problem.”

Kharob said he was branded “a problem” and was thereafter not invited to most meetings. “They stopped inviting me to meetings, simply because I made sure all the problems in the community were communicated to them, especially from some of the tribes that are left out.”

He further said he approached the councillor with a list of people in need of help, some of whom are on medication and have doctors’ letters stating they need enough food for the intake of medication.

Josephine Gaubes (49) from Okahandja Park says Councillor Likuwa does nothing to help the community when it comes to distribution of food.

“I never received food from the councillor, no Harambee and no donations from different donors.” She said she visited the councillor’s office for food as she is on treatment and needs to eat in order to take the anti-retroviral medication, but was sent back home without anything.

“They told me to go back home because there was no food but on my way back I saw some women being given food. I returned back to the office of the councillor but they told me that my name is not on that list and that I should wait for another day, but until today I have not received anything.”

Gaubes added that she stopped taking her medication because there was no point in taking the tablets if there is barely any food available. “Our councillor should stop these tribal issues he is bringing. He should see us as humans too. Almost all the Damaras [names] are not written [onto the list] to receive any food from government and it’s not fair. Food comes to his office a lot of times but it just disappears without a trace.”

Another disgruntled resident Fransina Kambonde (36) shared her disappointment over the way community leaders assess a family’s assets before deciding if such family should receive food aid. “They would come to your house and if they see that there is a car or a cupboard in the house then they will not write your name down for food. “Sometimes we don’t have anything at all, but we still end up not benefitting…”

She said when they go to the councillor’s office for services, they are asked to show their Swapo Party membership cards and when none are provided they do not get help. “Why are they doing this to us? They are helping people who are well off, but neglect the ones that really need the help.”

Confidente also spoke to Likuwa about the complaints of the constituency development committee and community members.

“It is not me but Isack who is wrong, he never shows up for meetings. I don’t want to involve politics but ever since he joined that Landless People’s Movement he just stopped coming for meetings. He is the tribalist… the list that he brought to me is just filled with one ethnic group and no other tribe. You say your colleagues are tribalist and you come to me with a list that only has one tribe, what does that make you? How are you better than other people?”

Likuwa insisted that what the community was saying about preference given to Swapo Party members was a lie and that community leaders are elected to represent the community. “They are not telling the truth, they should bring video as evidence if this is true and bring it to us.”