Battle against hunger crisis escalates as Swakop demands monthly fish parcels
Representatives of various community groups and political organisations gathered in the DRC to the north of Swakopmund on Friday to hand over a petition to the governor of Erongo region to demand that the government begin to supply fish parcels to all households affected by the lockdown restrictions and the consequent economic fallout of the state of emergency.
Stefanus Iyambo of the Affirmative Repositioning group, which collected food donations to give to needy families and those left destitute by recent fire incidents, said they were disappointed that the new governor, Neville Andre, did not even respond to their invitation to come and receive the petition.
Michael Rooi of the Landless People’s Movement said the government should realise that all communities were affected by the lockdown restrictions and face an urgent hunger crisis.
Rooi said LPM had offered suggestions to mitigate the crisis, “which fell on deaf ears”, and urged the authorities to redirect funds earmarked for bailing out failing state-owned enterprises to rather assist the poor in this time of crisis.
David Nghimbwasha of the Swakopmund Concerned Citizens Association, which has been assisting needy families by collecting and distributing food donations to people on the brink of starvation, said they face an imminent crisis at the coast, as many breadwinners have lost their jobs, income and livelihood over the past few months.
No large gatherings allowed
Although the DRC community has in the past staged mass protests and occupied the municipal premises for over two weeks to back their demands for land and water services, the organisers tried to limit the number of people attending the Friday meeting due to the restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in any one place.
This followed warnings by the security forces on Friday that they would crack down on large gatherings.
At the meeting in the DRC, I said it was “a shame and a disgrace” that the country exports 95% of the fish harvested in Namibian waters for the benefit of a few corporations while the local people — who are the rightful owners of that fish — go hungry on a daily basis.
I said Covid19 has brought on “the moment of truth” with regard to extreme inequality in the country. “The fish [caught in Namibian waters] belongs to the Namibian people but our people can hardly remember what fish tastes like. The time for justice is at hand. Give to the people what is due to them.”
“How can you export all the wealth, protein and fish out of the country while our own people are going hungry? It’s a disgrace and we must stop it” by any means necessary.
Not charity, but economic justice
The coalition of community leaders said they were not asking for charity and donations (welcome as that may be in times of urgent need), but for a fair share of what rightfully belongs to the Namibian people to be given to the people. “Give to the people what belongs to them,” they said.
After handing over food parcels to a few of the many desperate people that soon gathered at the meeting, Tracey January of the AR group said they were trying to mitigate the hunger crisis by helping where they can “but this is not sufficient”.
She urged the government to step up and deliver emergency food relief.
Representatives of the various groups, which formed a united front coalition to back their demand for monthly fish parcels, then went to the office of the governor in Tamariskia, where Nghimbwasha handed over the petition with over 2100 signatures to a representative of the governor, Edward Geingob.
Geingob could not explain why the governor declined to acknowledge the invitation to the DRC or send any representative to receive the petition.
In their petition, the coalition of community groups said the government has the responsibility and capacity to stave off the hunger crisis and prevent the further loss of life to the hunger pandemic.
They called on the government to immediately authorise the funding and distribution of monthly fish parcels in response to the hunger crisis and threat of famine. “Do the right thing. Time is of the essence,” they said.
Some community activists afterwards said they would give the governor 10 days to respond before announcing further action. It is understood that the community leaders intend to call for nationwide demonstrations to demand emergency fish parcels for all affected households.
FAKE NEWS: Besides the fact that none of the newspapers covered the Swakopmund community action, one online publication, Informante, openly distorted the facts by claiming the Swakop Concerned Group petitioned and supported the call for protests at Langstrand to demand the immediate lifting of the Erongo lockdown, which is patently false.
The coalition based its actions and demand on protecting public health, not endangering the public. Therefore, in light of the rising number of infections, we did not call for the immediate lifting of the lockdown but for emergency relief to enable people to adhere to the state of emergency restrictions.