Namibia
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Lay-offs, crime and hunger rife at Aranos

Aranos, a town in the Hardap region, has become a hotspot for crime, substance abuse and other forms of social decay.

These revelations surfaced in a report by the chairperson of the National Council, Lukas Sinimbo Muha, as the culmination of an outreach mission of the member of parliament and his delegation to the Hardap and Omaheke regions.

All these issues, according to the report, are by-products of the increasing unemployment situation at the town.

During the delegation’s visit to the town, the regional councilor and members of the community submitted that the uncontrolled expansion of the town’s informal settlement, which is not only an eyesore but also the breeding ground for many social ills, came as a result of the implementation of the minimum wage for farm workers, and the subsequent increase thereof in January 2022.

“Some farmers in the surrounding area decided to retrench and dumped workers at the town,” said some members of the community.

The mission further established that farm workers employed at farms around the town are subjected to exploitation and unfair labour practices.

Equally lamentable, according to the community, is the lack of employment opportunities at the town. As such, the people urged various offices to consider locals for entry level vacancies.

Also decried by the community is “the small budget allocation” appropriated to the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service, as well as the abuse of children’s social grants by some beneficiaries.

Other matters that came to the fore during the National Council’s trip to Aranos include the prevalence of rampant poverty at the town and the alleged exclusion of locals from benefiting through the country’s land resettlement programme.

CONSTITUENCY EFFORTS

Speaking to The Namibian this week, Aranos constituency councillor Salomon Henry Boois maintained that he is determined to consult stakeholders as he intends to do away with bad labour relations at farms in his constituency, citing that they are contributing to social problems at the town.

This is worsened by the fact that most farmworkers are not affiliated to unions, nor do they formalise their work engagements upon employment, he said.

“The first question I usually ask them is whether they have contracts that were violated, which they usually do not have. As such, there is not much that one can do to defend them, and this is said because some people have worked on the same farm for over two to three decades,” Boois said.

“I am planning to invite the labour ministry for a meeting with farm owners and workers in order to get to the bottom of this issue.

Boois maintained that farmworker lay-offs add to the town’s already rife unemployment situation, which sees people living in poverty.
“The young ones go into drug dealing to survive and this contributes to the escalation of drug usage, which propels the crime rate at the town,” Boois said.

REAL HUNGER
Meanwhile, bad labour relations, unemployment and delinquency are not the only problems facing the approximately 4 000 residents of the south-eastern town.

During the interaction with the National Council delegation, the community urged the government to consider the distribution of drought relief food at the town, as well as the reintroduction of the food bank to vulnerable people, citing that poverty is rampant at the town.

Speaking to The Namibian, Boois corroborated this stance.

“Hunger is visible on the streets of the town,” Boois said.

He said the distribution of drought relief food was stopped after the country received good rain. It was reintroduced this year, but not for those residing within the borders of the local authority, who are deemed unqualified.

“I and the governor (of the Hardap region) have spoken about this matter on radio, trying to convince the masses that these are the rules and there is not much that we can do about them,” Boois said.

He was, however, quick to indicate that while the food bank donations are only being granted at Mariental, there is a need for this programme to be extended to Aranos.

“The government must roll-out this programme at Aranos. There is a serious need for that,” he said.