GROOTFONTEIN – “We are living on the mercy of God,” these were the words repeatedly said by a group of destitute people, including San community members residing next to the historical single quarters in Grootfontein, where they have set up ramshackle shacks.
Not far from the site is a police station – and around the corner, one is greeted by the sight of a heap of discarded plastic rubbish, more like people who have set up dwellings at a landfill – but it is what some people call their home across seasons.
Some claim to have lived on this piece of land for nearly eight years, without any hope of assistance, as they struggle to make a living. They survive on doing odd jobs for the nearby community and they also receive drought relief food. However, for about four months now, they claim they have not received any assistance for food. “We inquired last month but we were told there is no food at the councillor’s office. But we don’t know if this is true or not, as sometimes, we are punished, accused of selling the food parcels we receive but that is untrue,” said David Nuseb. Others in his group asked: “Don’t you have surprises for us?” They were in hope this reporter might have brought along some goodies. The place is without water and ablution; hence, the group of more than 30, including children and elders, source water from the overcrowded Single Quarter squatters at no cost. “There are only two functional toilets at the single quarters, so many of us use open defecation. We appeal for land and shelter, as we are really suffering from harsh weather conditions,” said Ben Nauseb. Contacted for comment, the town mayor Abisai Haimene acknowledged the plight of the group, saying council is in the process of securing a place they could be accommodated and provided with decent shelter.
In the meantime, he said, they are sourcing for tents in collaboration with the office of the governor as a first step to shelter them once they are relocated. In terms of food provision, Haimene said council has set up a soup kitchen but it struggles to secure food to keep it running regularly. “Four months without receiving food might be a little bit longer. However, the office of the councillor always provides food, as well as through the president’s office. We are trying our level best to rescue our people,” said the mayor.
Regional councillor Nelao Amagulu was unavailable for comment by the time of going to print.