The San people have borne the brunt of Namibia’s increasing poverty and other challenges faced by the country, such as a lack of housing, unemployment and lack of access to basic needs, amongst many other issues. As this group remains one of the most marginalised communities in Namibia, New Era regional reporter Aletta Shikololo sat down with deputy minister Royal Johan Kxao /Ui/o/oo of the marginalised people to shed light on the plight of this group, and the progress made so far.
NE: Since you took office as the deputy minister of the marginalised people in 2015, you have undertaken regional tours. What were some of your findings and recommendations?
R/U: When I took office from the late Marco Hausiku, I thought that would be an easy task. But after two to four years in office, I realised that it is a very difficult division to work for. But being a committed person and as a representative of my community, I took on the challenge. Although I am not a fully-fledged minister who can take concrete decisions, I have discovered resettlement and funding for marginalised students as some of the pertinent issues. The communities were allocated a few farms before my tenure. To date, they do not have title deeds. If the government has given them farms, why can’t the government give them title deeds?
Secondly, since the establishment of this division, students from the marginalised communities were not being catered for properly because the little budget that was meant for them is being shared with non-marginalised students.
It is also difficult to control the marginalised communities because the places where they stay are very far from urban areas, and it is difficult to reach where they are. That is why to date, they do not have national documents, and I am also encouraging the government to assist the community through awareness campaigns.
NE: How do you view the overall state of San people in the country, and how will your leadership help improve the plight of San people in terms of their rights, health, education and other opportunities?
R/U: The state of the marginalised people is dire, and it needs urgent intervention. We need to organise ourselves properly and when given something, we must take care of it. For us to give these people special attention, I have proposed that there is a need for the establishment of a ministry to specifically cater for the needs of the San people. We are now placed under the ministry of gender equality, which is handling so many issues. I am proposing that at least the two divisions of marginalised people and also disability must be put together to create a ministry, and maybe some of the challenges will then be reduced.
NE: Do you think the fact that the marginalised people’s affairs are placed under the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare is one of the reasons the development of the marginalised community is moving at a slow pace?
R/U: Yes, I agree. With a ministry, work will be made much easier.
NE: There have been several reports on child marriage, sexual abuse, illegal adoption and the exploitation of San children. What is the ministry’s stance on this? And what is being done to alleviate such problems?
R/U: It is absolutely true, and our girls are mostly the targets. I was reliably informed that some of the cases were reported, but up to now they have not been attended to. We are trying our level best, and we are working hand-in-hand with police officers as well as members of the community to hold those found committing such crimes accountable.
Such matters need immediate attention, and I have realised we, as a division, also need to do a lot when it comes to awareness campaigns and information-sharing sessions. Most of these people do not know their rights, and that is what we are currently working on to ensure they are well-educated and their rights are protected.
NE: A large number of San people still do not have national documents. What is the ministry doing to address this issue?
R/U: I am working closely with the ministry of home affairs to address the issue of national documentation. The ministry is trying its level best to address this matter, which is why I came up with an idea of a ministry that will only be dealing with the issues of the marginalised communities. I am currently juggling between the work of the marginalised and that of gender equality, and I think it is time-consuming to focus mainly on the issues of the marginalised. With the help of regional development planners, we are also working on a database of how many San people do not have national documents.
NE: Do you think your proposal for the establishment of a ministry of indigenous affairs will be executed in a reasonable timeframe to help curb some of these challenges?
R/U: I want this to be done as soon as possible because once it is done, we can help curb some of the challenges efficiently. Instead of sharing a budget with other divisions, we will have our own because this is a special division that needs special attention. Having also considered the challenges of implementing it, such as the economic factors, we need to try our best to address this. I want this to be done at least before my retirement. I have already submitted the proposal to Cabinet.
NE: Lack of housing remains one of the major problems the San people are experiencing. The majority of them still live in small huts made of plastic and sticks. How is the ministry addressing this issue?
R/U: The government has been trying its level best to build houses for the San people, although it is not enough. However, I am still not satisfied with the houses made from zinc. In our division, we are also working on building decent houses for the San people.
NE: What is your own opinion on issues hindering the development of the San community,, and what is the root cause?
R/U: History has it that the San people were the first occupants of Africa, but I do not know exactly what went wrong. But somewhere somehow, something went wrong with our forefathers, and maybe the government has not done enough for these people. When I was appointed, my priority was education, and it is through this that we can groom our people to become responsible and productive citizens.
NE: How well are the San people represented in top leadership positions?
R/U: That is also another challenge we are currently facing. We do not have a lot of San people in leadership positions, and due to that, San people are not represented effectively. So, it is high time we groom these communities into becoming leaders. Those who are already in leadership positions, let’s find a way how we can empower San people to take up space in top leadership positions.
NE: You have been appointed to represent the people of your community. What are some of the changes you have brought about, and what is your overall goal to achieve before your term comes to an end?
R/U: I am not supposed to praise myself, but I have done much under the division when it was still under the office of the president. But currently, there are a few limitations now that we are under the ministry of gender equality. However, under my leadership, schools, including kindergartens, were built in the Kunene and Omaheke regions, some of which I have officially opened. In the Kavango regions, there are also some projects which are not yet completed due to funds. I am sure I did a lot.