The plight of unemployed men who congregate daily on the side of the road has been increasing in Namibia, showing how the country’s unemployment rate is rising, as it has been impacted by a prolonged recession exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
About 16 men, found on the side of David Hosea Meroro Road in Windhoek, said: “poverty and death is the same thing – and at the moment, hunger is the pandemic”.
Most of them are from informal settlements of Havana and Babylon in Windhoek; they leave their scanty dwellings around 4h00 daily to walk to the far-flung corners of the city to hustle for work.
A 24-year-old who dropped out of school in grade 7 because of financial problems at home, Jonatana Shiipingana, said he hoped for a better life on the streets to support his struggling family.
Shiipingana stated that even three entire days can pass by without a meal.
Uejanguno Tjimuhiva (35), a father of two, said it is painful to go home empty-handed while his children and wife all expect the sound of plastic bags when he enters his home.
He stated that at times, their employers do not pay them the agreed amount – and it often this ends in disputes. Tjimuhiva urged government to support these roadside jobseekers by choosing them to clean government offices and parks.
According to Lamek Haipinge (38), the association tasked to assist them, known as ‘Men on the Side of the Road (MSR)’ does nothing besides collecting N$50 from them as membership fee.
“Where do they think we get the money? The circumstances we find ourselves in are not by choice. Hunger is breaking our families. We end up selling things at home for survival,” said Haipinge.
Meanwhile, Shapwa Timotheus (45) said there is inconsistency in income, urging MSR to really assist and not only to collect their N$50. He said it is not by choice for them to be involved in crime but they are rather compelled to such a life because of circumstances.
“Government officials only realise we are here during election time. That is when they see our hunger,” said Timotheus.
Responding to questions from New Era, ministry of labour executive director Bro-Matthew Shinguadja said government, in collaboration with the MSR project, is formalising a recruitment strategy of these job seekers so they are registered through the Namibia Integrated Employment Information System (NIEIS) with traceable information and records.
He said this will help trace them and inform them of possible employment opportunities as well as their rights and freedoms.
NIEIS is a statutory database that collects, stores and updates information concerning the names, qualifications and occupations of job-seekers; it compares this information with vacancies in the labour market as well as specialised skills and qualifications required and possessed by Namibian citizens and permanent residents.
The system supports and contributes to well-coordinated and managed national employment creation efforts.
The labour ministry also advised the roadside job seekers to report assault incidents to the police, while unpaid or underpaid instances can be reported to the labour ministry for action.
For the sake of promoting employment creation efforts in the country, the ministry encourages jobseekers to register on the NIEIS portal, while potential employers are advised to source labourers from this system. - firstname.lastname@example.org