Last week I drove past Gibeon as I normally do over weekends and decided to pop in and check what is going on at my alma mater, Spellmeyer Secondary School at the village. The picture that was greeting me was shocking, to say the least. The hostel door and window frames were removed presumably by government or through vandalism. It was not clear to me as the job was done pretty well.
As I was proceeding to my little settlement some 30 kilometres away from the village, I was involuntarily thinking about the days when we were schooling at Spellmeyer.
In 1976 with the nationwide unrest at schools in Namibia and South Africa, myself and the likes of late Jones Boois, Soul Goagoseb, Alex Kamburute, Lucky Mungunda and some other fellows applied to the school after we were involved in the strike at the Augustineum college.
As many of us had been expelled from Augustineum, we were blacklisted and barred from entry at government schools.
The late Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi (let his soul rest in eternal peace), in his better judgement, decided to accept us at his school despite the ban imposed on us.
But today I don’t want to talk about history. I want to talk about Gibeon. The erstwhile “Mecca” of southern politics. The place where the likes of Laurentius Davids, Eric Biwa, Lukas Stephanus, Andries Basson, Petrus Smit, Meester Johannes Isaack, and Old Mister Smit and of course Captain Witbooi and many others converged regularly to try and map out the future of this country through Swapo. Most of them are late today. Regrettably, though, many of their efforts were in vain and some perished in the notorious Lubango dungeons in Angola.
It was when I reached my settlement that tears were running down my face driven by the despairing state the village finds itself in and the prevalent abject poverty there. Suddenly I realised it is not me crying. It is Gibeon.
*Gibeon is crying because no development in terms of infrastructure has taken place over the past 30 years. The only significant development was the construction of the Namibia Development Corporation’s Industrial Park, which has now become a white elephant as it was built on a wrong place and way out of reach of the inhabitants.
The NDC Industrial Park development is a classic example of throwing spaghetti at a wall and see what sticks and so are other developmental interventions at the village.
* The village cries because Agra has closed its auction pens and moved all auctions to Mariental, some 70 kilometres away for small stock farmers to sell their stock. When they eventually sell their stock and return to Gibeon, they cannot put bread on the table. The best part of the proceeds has gone into covering transport cost. Waiting for another day without food and no hope for the children.
*Gibeon is angry because it cannot sleep at night due to the sewerage pond built right in the middle of the village. At night mosquitoes are taking over and dancing year after year with the resultant diseases and other health risks associated with a sewerage pond.
*Gibeon is at pains with the authorities as the infighting in the village council hampers development at the village. The proverbial saying: “ when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”, is at play here. The village council must stop their infighting and work in harmony towards uplifting the living standards of the residents of Gibeon.
*Gibeon is disappointed because all local shops are gradually landing in the hands of businessmen from the north. The village wants to be empowered so its own people can run businesses there.
* Gibeon is complaining because it is no more the place where everyone could walk freely at night without fear of being attacked, stabbed or robbed for no apparent reason. That is out of frustration for the rampant poverty at Gibeon.
* Gibeon is crying because the only sports stadium at the village is in a dilapidated state that it cannot serve any purpose. Therefore children are roaming the streets day and night as there is no place to keep them busy.
*Gibeon is dying because the fountain, the reason for its very existence and historically indeed the fountain of life, has now become a fountain of death. The reeds surrounding the fountain are the silent evidence that the fountain was a source of life to men during the village’s glory days. Today horses and other animals have taken over. The village council does not see the need to preserve this valuable resource.
*Gibeon is finally demanding speedy development. It wants to be part of the national development agenda so that all the ills can be addressed and its dignity restored. The narrative that nobody must be left out, is clearly not applied at Gibeon. The village wants back its erstwhile glory. Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi’s village wants to see rapid change. That’s the only way for Gibeon to come to terms with its future and be at peace with itself.
Government needs to deliberately avail money and other resources to develop Gibeon to avoid it becoming a ghost town. Omuthiya and Ondangwa is a classic example.