“You did not vote for me,” was the cold response Goreangab Dam’s Happy Crest residents got from Samora Machel constituency councillor Nestor Kalola after bringing their plight to his attention.
Yesterday, residents of Happy Crest, a new informal settlement on the outskirts of Windhoek, held a peaceful demonstration over the lack of water and other important amenities they were allegedly promised.
Chanting ‘no water, no vote’ in front of the constituency offices, the group demanded the water promised to them.
At present, they walk about 1.5km to the nearest water source in the area.
“We are collecting dirty water in the river, which is on private land,” said Albert Tjipose, spokesperson of the disgruntled residents.
He continued: “There is no water and sanitation in the community; no schools! Our children have to walk 7km to the nearest schools. There is no clinic [and] people have to walk long distances for healthcare. It is very dangerous in our communities since there are no lights, streets and no police station close by.”
Another Happy Crest resident, Paulina Mberema, echoed Tjipose’s sentiments.
“We have to fetch water from a 2km distance, and sometimes get water in the riverbed or the Goreangab Dam stream. This water is causing sickness to our children and older citizens,” she complained.
So far, the group claimed that six people have fallen ill from drinking the contaminated water.
Other grievances included the lack of a mobile clinic, not having network or Wi-Fi, and the absence of street lights.
“We demand a prompt response, as failure to do so will result in a second peaceful demonstration,” Tjipose threatened.
Kalola also seemed amused by their chants.
Receiving the petition, the councillor informed the around 20 protestors that they were barking up the wrong tree.
“I’ve been requesting the service long before you; you weren’t here. When I requested this, it’s for the people who voted for me to be in office. You weren’t here, you are coming from Otjomuise and Omukwanangombe. You are not the ones who voted for me, as you claimed here,” Kalola told the group.
“It’s not my responsibility,” he said, but acknowledged receiving their complaint letters, which he said contained nothing that he could respond to.
“I have received a letter from your people. But unfortunately you did not specify what kind of complaint it was, or what your needs are. That is unfortunate that in the letter, I have it, you did not specify anything. You only said you wanted to bring a petition”.
After the petition was read, Kalola said: “From what I’ve heard here when I’m listening to you, you are complaining about your safety. Yes, I understand safety is a concern, but it’s not only your area [but] the whole constituency. Crime is everywhere. If I report or if I inform the Namibian Police or City Police that people are being terrorised on that side, I will just report it. If they don’t do their work, it’s not my responsibility; it is not me going on the ground.”
On the safety patrols they requested, Kalola said it depends on the police and their available resources. “We need to consider that I’m not here to protect them, but we need to tell the truth. The Wanaheda police station covers four constituencies, but look at the number of people there. It can’t be possible to afford to patrol all areas,” he continued.
Kalola then told the demonstrators that the land on which they reside has been earmarked by the City of Windhoek for the construction of a school, hospital and police station. This, unfortunately, means that they will have to be relocated.
On behalf of the City, Strategic Executive for Housing Faniel Maanda said “we will take time to read through the petition and get back to your representatives since it’s a serious matter that needs urgent attention”.