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Crime, violence against San rife

2022-07-05  Aletta Shikololo

Crime, violence against San rife
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OKONGO – Community leaders and authorities have observed with concern incidents of crime, violence and stigma reportedly by some Aawambo towards the marginalised San people in the Ohangwena region. The San community in the region is often subjected to extreme violence, torture, rape and fraud at the hands of the Aawambo community as highlighted by Ester Nghitotelwa, a resident and kindergarten teacher at Omundaugilo San Community Centre in the Ohangwena region.

A caretaker of the San people in the Eendombe San Community Centre Rachel Nekongo echoed the same sentiments.

Aawambo are regarded as Ovayamba – loosely translated as wealthy people – and it is used with a sense of superiority over the San people.

Financial exploitation

Nghitotelwa said although the government has tried to improve the livelihoods of the marginalised communities through feeding schemes and social grants, the community members who are not part of this indigenous group tend to take advantage of them and rob them of the little they get from the government.

“One of the main challenges these people are experiencing is fraud. Oshiwambo-speaking people tend to steal from the San people. They collect their social grants and pension on their behalf under the disguise of saving money on their behalf. They (Aawambo) even refer to a certain number of San people as “their people”, meaning they own them,” explained Nghitotelwa.

Speaking on the social grants, pension and disability grants, Nekongo said in the centre of over 80 San people, there is only one person who collects their grants.

The rest of the San community relies on people from the Oshiwambo-speaking community to collect money for them.

“Some do not even know how much money they are entitled to, which gives an opportunity to the culprits to mismanage their cash,” she said.

She said, after collecting money, they do not hand it over, while some use it up in exchange for a jar of the traditional alcoholic beverage, such as tombo.

“When San people receive their food consignments, Aawambo people take it from them and give tombo in exchange. When the San people are in need of food, they (Aawambo) would sell back the food to the San people at ridiculous prices, which at times put them in debt. When pension day comes, they are forced to give most of it away because they have food and tombo debts to pay,” she observed.

Rape and sexual abuse

Nghitotelwa said another challenge is rape and sexual abuse, especially among young girls of the San community.

“The Oshiwambo-speaking men take advantage of these girls, and many of them are still in primary school. When these children are employed for domestic work at their houses, they impregnate them and refute the pregnancies. Hence, a lot of girls within the San communities have children with no fathers and a lot of their children do not have national documents. When they fall pregnant, they do not return to school,” she said.

Child labour for pennies and alcohol 

According to Nekongo, the experiences of the San people at Omundaungilo encapsulate the struggles of many San people in the country in their quest for a dignified life.

She said the San people in her community are also subjected to child and cheap labour.

Children as young as 10 and 11, elderly people and pensioners are made to do hard labour, such as field and domestic work for as little as N$20.

“People assume that San people do not work for themselves but they do. The problem is that there are forced to work for Aawambo and neglect their own fields and get low wages or alcohol in return for their hard work,’’ she said.

Need for human rights education 

Nekongo, who has been working at the San People’s Centre since 2005, said she has observed that most members of the San community are still not aware of these bad deeds committed against them, because they do not know their rights.

“They do not know that what is being done to them is wrong because they are not exposed to better livelihoods; they are not educated. Alcohol abuse is another issue they have. They are mostly taken advantage of because of their alcohol addiction,” she said.

Nekongo pleaded with the government to create more awareness and advocacy among the marginalised communities.

Need for youth employment

“I am also requesting the government and the business communities to look into the employment of these people. We have a lot of young potential San people in need of jobs – even as casual workers, cleaners and shop attendants; some need vocational training. This will help boost self-dependency among this community,” she said.

The San people are settled in various constituencies such as Okongo, Epembe, Oshikunde, Ondombe, Eenhana and Omundaungilo.

In a telephonic interview with New Era, development planner responsible for the marginalised community in Ohangwena region Tomas Puleinge said his office, in collaboration with the Namibian police, councillors and other stakeholders conducted community meetings to educate the community on pertinent issues affecting the marginalised San people.

Despite these meetings, he said, most San people refuse to attend, as they do not see the significance of information-sharing.

“We are aware of these issues, and we are currently doing everything in our power to help curb crimes of that nature and improve the livelihoods of the San people in the country. Issues such as child labour and rape are very critical, and they need serious intervention,” she said.

Puleinge added that his office and the authorities are conducting a month-long advocacy programme from 1 July 2022.

“We understand that the majority of the San people in the region do not know their rights, and it is our duty to make sure they are well informed, educated and given the correct procedures to
follow. 

For example, many young girls get raped, but they do not know that what was done to them was rape. We are also going to warn, inform people responsible for these crimes to retract their deed and also take action against them,” said Puleinge.

During the advocacy programme, he said, they would visit the pay points and write off all credits owed by the San people and also conduct individual meetings with them.

- ashikololo@nepc.com.na


2022-07-05  Aletta Shikololo

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