Young community activist Elifas Helao Nghitomoka (27) believes there is a leadership vacuum in his constituency, which prompted him to run for public office in the upcoming regional council elections slated for November.
He talks to us about his upbringing and ambitions.
NE: Who is Elifas Helao Nghitomoka?
EN: Elifas Helao Nghitomoka is a community activist and resident of the neglected informal settlement of Samora Machel constituency in Windhoek fighting for social justice.
He is an executive member of the Students Christian Movement of Namibia (SCM) who believes that those who are fortunate have some obligations to reach out to the less fortunate people in our society.
NE: Who inspired you to become a community activist?
EN: The injustices we are subjected to every single day of our lives.
NE: What are some of the initiatives that you have introduced in your community?
EN: Together with fellow residents, we created a social media platform for our people to tell their story and life experiences, we call it the People’s Voice of Samora Machel Constituency.
Through this platform as residents, we come together to discuss issues of common concerns and share ideas on how best we can move our constituency forward.
We also started a self-reliance programme to encourage residents to look within ourselves for solutions, and to say that we are not always supposed to get help from outside.
Certain things we can do for ourselves if we pull our resources together and in the long run have a self-sustaining constituency.
The whole point is to avoid too much dependency, I mean we are people and we can think for ourselves.
We also do community clean-up sessions, we can mobilize resources to buy cleaning materials and do a clean-up session with the residents and encourage our fellow residents to take the initiative and clean their environment and keep them clean.
NE: You have indicated your intention to run as an independent candidate in the upcoming regional council eelctions. Why did you decide to run for office?
EN: There is a leadership vacuum that is needed to be filled.
Through our engagements and discussions on how we can move our constituency forward, we asked ourselves why do we live in the conditions we are living in and why is it that others are not living like we do.
What is it that we have done to deserve this, living like stepsons and stepdaughters of Namibia? We couldn’t understand why, so we decided that if we are to move our community forward, then we should take charge and be part of the solution we need.
There is a need for a leader among us, one who understands and goes through the suffering and pains we are subjected to every single day of our lives.
As a result, people saw the potential in me and asked me to stand so I represent their interests and enact out the will of the people of Samora Machel constituency.
And I am running for public office on that basis and I am genuinely looking forward to working with the people of Samora Machel constituency to realise this.
NE: What are the urgent needs of your community?
EN: The urgent needs we have noted and experienced are housing, where people are not allowed to extend their shacks or they don’t have a place to stay.
In addition there is no adequate sanitation and water. Another urgent need is electricity and an open market for our vendors.
NE: What plans are you having for Samora Machel?
EN: As a representative of the will of the people of Samora Machel constituency, I don’t claim to have the monopoly of wisdom to say that I know everything.
I have engaged and continue to engage our people on what is to be done and how.
The problems of our constituency are visible even to a small child and we have made comparisons with other similar places and how they have managed to transform.
I am going to work together with the community to solve the problems we are faced with.
We know very well that almost every project will come at a cost given the difficult period we are in and likely to be in for the next two to three years.
When we take over office, we have to serve because of our people’s high expectations for service delivery, which we have been denied for too long.
It is not cheap to get these things done, but we have to start somewhere and address the genuine issues affecting our lives everyday. And for sure, we will get it right.
NE: Are you confident you will prevail and be elected as a regional councillor?
EN: Yes, I accepted to stand because I am tired of living in these harsh conditions and if we are all tired of living in these conditions then surely you will vote for one of you to represent your interest because I am the only candidate who is directly nominated by the people and will give my allegiance to the people of Samora Machel constituency.
We have challenged these harsh conditions from a position of an ordinary citizen and being a pressure group, we did well by achieving some of the things with no legitimate power.
What we are seeking right now is legitimate power, to say, look we have done this and that, we can do more with the people power.
And if we are all tired of the harsh conditions we are living under, we must all be prepared to walk ourselves out of these problems.
NE: We have seen you on several occasions standing up for the poor, including get arrested for fighting for the landless and so on. Do you think much has been done to address the burning urban land issue, especially in Windhoek?
EN: The question of land is not yet addressed; the majority of the people in Windhoek still do not own a piece of land and if they have it, they don’t have title deed for that piece of land, which means that any day they can be evicted from that piece of land.
As we are seeing already the minister went to court so that those in Okahandja who recently occupied land on their own get evicted.
It’s a sign that if the government is to succeed in this case then it will set a precedent that all the other people who have settled on the land without municipality approval will be evicted as well.
And this can be done to us living in Havana, Goreangab and elsewhere.
If you look around, almost everywhere in Windhoek, there are more flats for renting.
Can you imagine that even in Havana informal settlement there are flats – this is a clear indication that only those who are building flats are being given the priority and the ordinary citizens will be subjected to renting the elites’ flats and those in charge of giving land will not give land to people to build their houses because they know that their flats will be empty as no one will choose to rent if houses are affordable.
NE: The issue of sanitation is another challenge facing informal settlements. How do you intend to address this problematic issue?
EN: Like I said earlier, everything we need as the people will come at a cost, including sanitation, and government does not want to invest, because sanitation isn’t politically sexy. No one likes to talk about it, it’s “dirty”.
I mean if investment can be made in other projects surely we can also invest in sanitation because the masses need to use those services urgently; we have been denied these services for too long and we cannot postpone it any further.
We cannot compromise on the issue of sanitation, because people cannot live without such basic services, even if they have been living without it for the past 30 years.
It has resulted in many diseases coming as a result of lack of sanitation.
Without sanitation, there will be more outbreaks such as hepatitis E which took a lot of our brothers and sisters.
A sad situation which could’ve been prevented and one we want to see come to an end.
When we take over, we will work together with different stakeholders and look at the available sanitation solutions, engage and see which is the possible solution for all our people.
NE: Samora Machel is also one of the oldest constituencies in Khomas. Do you think there has been progress in terms of real development for the locals?
EN: Samora Machel constituency is one of the most neglected and forgotten informal settlements, especially in the areas of Greenwell, Goreangab and Havana.
We have been used as voting cows. Thirty years later we are still asking/fighting for basic services.
All regional councillors we had never came from suffering hence they don’t care, hence no development.
It is for the first time in the history of Samora Machel constituency that the councillor will be from the slums of Windhoek where there is poor sanitation and no electricity for the masses.
We, the masses will take charge of our destiny and get this right for the betterment of all.
NE: There have been concerns that young people often burst onto the political scene and disappear moments later. How do you intend to remain relevant and a respected community leader?
EN: My struggle is more about the issues on the ground, landlessness, homelessness, poor sanitation, lack of electricity and lack of basic services to the masses of our people in the slums and rural areas.
For as long as these issues are not addressed fully, my struggle for social justice for all will continue.
NE: Tell us about your links to the Affirmative Repositioning movement. Are you one of their leaders?
EN: I am an activist of the Affirmative Repositioning movement (AR); it’s the only movement which has been consistent and has the potential of uniting all Namibians for a better Namibia for all, as it is above partisan politics.
Also through the movement, we have given hope to the brokenhearted and downtrodden in our society who are landless.
We focus on the content and character of individuals and not necessarily the party one belongs to.
NE: What is your message to young people out there who are so disillusioned with politics?
EN: Yes, you might be disappointed but you are too young to give up on your country, we must all draw up the future of our country.
Remember, Namibia is for all of us to build, meaning we are all expected to contribute something to Namibia, and if you don’t do what you are supposed to carry out then things will never be perfect because some players are absent.