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‘She wanted to sleep between the mattress and the base’

Fenni Shigwedha woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of her daughter’s sobs.

She could not stand the freezing weather. Shigwedha (50), who lives at Havana informal settlement in Windhoek, has to endure the bitter cold that crept into her family’s shack on Tuesdsay night.

Temperatures reached below zero, and Shigwedha’s daughter could not take it.

“My poor daughter wanted to sleep between the mattress and the base. She thought it would be warmer, and asked to sleep next to her brother instead,” she says.

A blue curtain separates the children’s room from the rest of the house.

Shigwedha says her two children sleep in the same room, but on separate beds.

“My daughter is 12 years old, and the boy is 10 years old. I like them sleeping separately, but now, since it’s cold, I don’t know how to keep them warm,” she says.

Shigwedha says the zinc shack gets very cold at night, and with only a few blankets, her family fears the cold.

“We are struggling to get blankets as well as food. Today we will eat the bean leaves I got from the north.

“Sometimes we go to bed without eating anything. “At night you are freezing, and when you wake up you are starving,” she says, while stirring a pot of wild spinach on the fire.

Her husband, Shangano Hamupembe (59), who is unemployed, makes rugs from plastic ropes.

“Most days I go to construction sites to collect plastic ropes. I used to collect them for free, but now I buy them from the guys who are building at sites,” he says.Hamupembe says sometimes he gets no customers and struggles to feed his 12 children.

Winter is not making things any easier.

“I don’t stay with all of them, but since I am their father, I have to at least send them something every month. “We are already struggling with food, now we need blankets, and school is starting. These kids need school jerseys. It’s just too much,” he says.

Hamupembe says there is no money for blankets to keep warm. He says they want the government to assist them with employment, and not those with qualifications only.

“I am tired of complaining. We need jobs – even to clean the streets, gardening, brickmaking . . . we can do all that.

“Our government does not care. I am still using the old South African identity card. When you go to home affairs, it’s long stories,” he says.

“We are starving and freezing, and there is no relief in sight.”
Their story is not unique.

At Havana settlement, the lack of blankets and affordable food is a constant struggle.

Resident Given Gariseb says they woke up with no water yesterday as the tap water was frozen.

“Some of us have blankets, but it doesn’t help. We are between the mountains and valleys, so it gets extremely cold this side,’’ he says.


Meanwhile, residents of Lüderitz and Aus in the //Kharas region have been facing icy cold and wet weather for the past three days due to a cold front creeping in from Cape Town, South Africa.

Over the last two days, Lüderitz experienced light showers.

According to the Namibia Meteorological Services, winter showers of between 50mm and 100mm are expected to hit most of the southern parts of the country, and could last for the whole week.

The meteorological services issued a warning to small livestock and crop farmers in the south, and the central-eastern parts of the country have been warned to take extra precautions against the cold front.