When the Leadership Lost Vision, the Poor Suffer

Wednesday, 25 August, 2010 - 12:00

The recent raping and guerilla-type execution of a Grade 11 learner, Magdalena Stoffels, highlight the seriousness of gender-based violence (GBV) in Namibia. Apart from the increasing GBV in the country, the senseless murder of Stoffels paints a picture of a country in which the safety of women and children is a concern. In addition, the lack of political will, as evident in government officials’ failure to urgently end GBV, creates an impression that the country is not taking GBV seriously

I share the fatherly pain in the horrible and horrible, brutal raping and guerilla-type execution of a young girl, a Grade 11 student at David Bezuidenhout School, Magdalena Stoffels. I have the same sorrowful emotion with the members of the family whose child/sister was robbed from their company. I put myself in their shoes; imagine a mother/brother/sister bid farewell to a loved one to go to school and only to be informed that, “Sorry, she is no more”. And not to find out that she got raped and had her throat cut. I understand the messages expressed by the aggrieved people who gathered at the Magistrate Court in Katutura (on 29 July 2010), including classmates, friends, students, neighbours and concerned citizens, when they emotionally shouted:

“We are not safe. Give him to us! Hang him! Burry him alive! We have given enough petitions. No more petitions! Action, action! Where were you?”

Minister of Gender, Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka, accompanied by her deputy, Angelika Muharukua, should understand better why the aggrieved group refused to be silenced or listen to be addressed by her. The reason being, “Where were you?”

Some people may say that we should not play a blame game at this point in time because we need to be united. But, hey, how many people, especially women and children have to suffer before something is done? Take note that even the young women who were killed and their bodies were mutilated and the parts were found dumped along the road, their cases are still pending.

It was very scary that the aggrieved citizens have no shoulders to cry on as the politicians in power, including President Hifikepunye Pohamba, or his officials at the State House, choose to enjoy the comfort zone in their air-conditioned rooms. Mr. President, leave the condemnation to the ordinary nation. Action, action and action!

I mean, why were you ‘honorables’ not there in big numbers like the time of election campaigns when you want to be voted into power? Must we still call you our representatives or servants? I doubt it!

The people wanted to see the Minister of Justice. Where was Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Iithana? Or has she not heard the sad news, maybe? Where was Prime Minister, Nahas Angula? Where was the Minister of Youth, National Services, Sports and Culture, Kazenambo Kazenambo? Where was the Speaker of the National Assembly, D. Theo-Ben Gurirab, and the MPs? And the Inspector-General of the Police, Lt. Gen. Sebatian Ndeitunga, was no where to be seen. What about the ‘Father of the Namibian Nation’ in this country?

Please, we want to know before we believe in rumours that ‘you’ have gone on S&T and allowance-sponsored trips to show off their newly-acquired, bigger and flashy E-Class Mercedes-Benzes (costing N$30 million) which have just arrived from Germany! The Executive Director of the National Society for Human Rights, Phil ya Nangoloh, was there. Those who claim to love the nation and/or are the only ones who are promoting peace and stability in this country were absent. What a farce?

What we have in this country is a society that is lost, a nation that has lost its unity of purpose. There is no solidarity at all. The community policing is non-existent. A neighbour or a passer-by does not give a damn to a call for help from another human being. One can hardly tell how many people are in the neighboring house, never mind the names. What about disciplining and caring for the children? A country where a life of a human being is no more respected and protected but worthless compared to a life of a goat, sheep or a cow. A goat convict can get 30 years imprisonment sentence while a killer can get away with murder. The case proceedings will continue long enough to qualify as torture to the already traumatised family.

These acts of cruelty among our society should have served as a wake up call to those who are in power, politicians. Preventive measures should have been put in place to curb such criminal activities. Be very afraid that a thug can just find a safe spot where to ambush and target his victims, especially the school-going children. The environment makes it possible. The money is there in State coffers to buy school buses for schools in most urban areas. Billions of Namibian dollars are being squandered and misused in the interest of a few already wealthy individuals.

We have already seen these similar crimes committed against the student who attend their classes at high institutions like Polytechnic, University of Namibia, International University of Management, etc. And what happened to a promise made by Iivula-Ithana, during the Tobias Hainyeko Constituency by-elections, that there will be free buses to transport students to and from schools if Councillor, Zulu Shitongeni, wins? The situation in Katutura and other impoverished areas of this country is just terrible. I wonder why some areas are not provided with mobile police stations and a 24-hour police patrol. No wonder, people in Windhoek are now relying on the City Police more than the Namibia of People (Nampol). Nampol is now more of an office where one goes to lay criminal charges, have the copies certified and makes police declarations.

The country also lacks accurate statistics of the population, which is the reason why it is not clear whether the authority knows how many Namibians are there and how many are unemployed. And the leaders are in a state of denial of the United Nations report which discovered that 51.2 percent of the citizens are unemployed. Do we know how many qualified Namibians are unemployed? It is therefore difficult to budget for the maintenance and promotion of law and order, not to mention job creation, education and health services.

In a true democracy, when violence has gone to such an extent of an intolerable level, politicians who are entrusted for ensuring the people’s safety and security are solely to blame. They can even resign voluntarily if something goes wrong under their supervision. But, alas, in Namibia they defend each other if not themselves. Poverty is rife. Take a trip and visit some areas in Windhoek such as Hakahana and Babylon. You could clearly see poverty and hopelessness in the eyes of the people. And the politicians in power knows this very well; that is why they have moved to the other side of Windhoek for their own safety and that of their children. They are more concerned about naming the street names after themselves or having their mark (identity) on State assets.

As if that was not enough, they have recruited or employed the security personnel to provide them with a 24-hour protection. Their houses, offices and businesses are cordoned off by electric fences. It boils down to political, civil, socio-economic and cultural problems in our society. In Windhoek, the incidents such as violence against women and children are common. Many go unnoticed or unreported. Our citizens, just like its leaders, have become more reactionary than pro-active.

Had the citizens and or the Namibian Government taken serious the 2009 Human Rights Report by the National Society for Human Rights, which was released in April, they would have understood better as to what the root cause of the problems are/is. Under the sub-headline ‘II. Analysis: General Human Security Situation 2009’, Paragraph 11, found that, “As the period under consideration [between 31 October 2008 and 10 December] drew to the end, a whole paraphernalia of crimes (which manifested itself through inter alia armed robbery, murder per se, abortion, baby dumping, infanticide, suicide, rape, gender-based violence, societal violence and burgeoning human trafficking) also gravely threatened the right to personal security of Namibian inhabitants.”

By now, the situation must have gotten worse than before - out of hand! When the public looses confidence in the rule of law, lawlessness (mob justice) takes over.

The murder of that 17-year old learner is just but an indicator of a deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

- Steven Mvula is public relations officer at the National Society for Human Rights based in Namibia.

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