Proponents of a Basic Income Grant (BIG) have reiterated calls for government to urgently consider rolling out a monthly grant of N$500 to people aged between 19-59 to improve living conditions.
The BIG coalition was responding to a New Era video footage, which showed both people and livestock riffling through waste at Opuwo’s dumpsite last week.
The coalition says the implementation of a monthly grant would hold government accountable to bring an end to what it terms a “shameful animal-like” living conditions of Namibians.
According to the coalition, the Opuwo dumpsite video footage is a heartbreaking scene. They accused government of having failed to reduce poverty and inequality, which continue to plague mainly the black Namibian population 30 years after independence.
“Citizens have been dehumanised and reduced to the status of animals as they are scavenging for food at the dumpsite together with the community’s goats. People continue to suffer to survive on a daily basis as they are not able to afford the bare minimum human necessities that will enable them to live a dignified life,” said coalition spokesperson Rinaani Musutua.
The coalition said Namibia is among the countries in the world with the highest poverty and inequality rates according to the 2019 UNDP Human Development Report. They charge that no genuine efforts have been made to reduce the problem at hand.
According to the report, two-thirds of the Namibian population lives below the poverty line, of which 430 000 face hunger and need humanitarian aid. The coalition has in the past advised government that BIG would be the fastest and most cost-efficient way through which to reduce poverty and inequality.
“BIG will help restore impoverished people’s dignity as they will avoid going to the rubbish dumps and bins to scavenge for food,” said Musutua.
The Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare last year said the proposed universal grant for unemployed Namibians is indeed feasible, albeit at less than N$400 a month. The ministry’s executive director, Esther Lusepani, told New Era at the time this was concluded after the finalisation of the government feasibility study meant to determine whether the country can introduce a basic income grant to benefit roughly 1.2 million unemployed people. “The study proposed that the BIG can be feasible at a proposed amount of N$389.00 monthly (lower bound poverty rate). Nevertheless, the BIG forms part of the draft National Social Protection Policy which was submitted to Cabinet for approval,” she said.