…who is affected?
Just when it was fast becoming a growing trend of driving to your favourite spot, grab a cold beverage while your car gets a clean wash, the City heads have decided to follow the book and shut down all illegal car wash businesses. Many will jump to the reality that their Sunday sessions will be a hustle as their favourite spots now no longer have the preferred services, but also think of the man who used to wash your car but no longer has a job.
The City of Windhoek’s step to follow the book is a step to getting people to follow orders but on the downside it has sent hundreds to the streets. It is safe to say that this is their bread and butter. And for most it is a decent way of earning a living. As one walks/drives through the streets of Katutura you will soon realize that most carwashes are non operational.
Water is a scarce resource in Namibia and thus it comes as no surprise that the City of Windhoek is resorting to all measures to ensure that all citizens utilize water sparingly. However at the helm of this entire crisis are small business owners that require water for the operation of their business.
Some were deemed as illegal by the City Police as they either didn’t meet the structural requirements set by the City of Windhoek or they had been operating without the required documentations.
The Lounge engaged with the City Police, affected owners of these carwashes as well as members of the public that make use of the carwash services. Superintendent Cillie Auala of the City Police explained that it is part of their duty to enforce municipal by-laws as set by the City of Windhoek. “Our concern is not why the carwash owners don’t have registered or legal licenses as our mandate is only to fine or shutdown any and all illegally operating carwashes”, she said.
“Carwash owners cannot blame us for shutting down their illegal businesses as we did our part to educate them on what is required to legally own a carwash during our campaigns last year,” she added.
According to a carwash owner, from Katutura’s Donkerhoek who prefers to remain anonymous, he begs to differ with Auala. He operates his carwash illegally because for the past three years the fitness department at the City of Windhoek has been non operational. He said he has not received any form of education and never heard of any campaigns by the City Police. He claims that he couldn’t obtain his fitness license as the department appears to be nonexistent and that the only piece of information he got from the City of Windhoek was that he needed to build an oil trapper that costs around N$15 000. “How will I afford to build an oil trapper worth so much, if I don’t even make more than N$1000 per month?”
He said that he closed his carwash for three months when he heard on the radio that the City Police will shut down all illegally carwashes. However he decided to reopen his business as this is his sole source of income.
The car wash owner is of the opinion that there are loop holes in the system as people like him that have been literally begging to obtain a license and followed all required processes and still have not received a response. Yet people who recently opened carwashes already own licenses and views this as corruption. “This is my bread and butter, if I had any other means of earning money I would have stopped operating my business a long time ago”, he added.
Another carwash owner Ruben Kalipi from Wanaheda says he has no other choice than to look for another job. “Just a month before Independence Day and our leaders have decided to take our jobs away. I do not know what independence we are celebrating if people without degrees cannot hustle on their own and still make a living. This move is deliberate and I guess they (CoW) want us to turn to crime,” said Ruben who has since return to his father’s cattle post.
Rajiv Khiba, a resident of Wanaheda and loyal carwash supporter explained that the shutting down of car washes has not affected him that much as an individual. He however feels bad that people who earn an honest and decent living through car washes now have no means of income. “I have no problem washing my car at home, it would actually save me money and effort, but I would rather take it to the carwash and help my fellow brother make an honest living”, said.
He explains that a carwash is part of the Namibian cultural experience. “A car wash is the one place that friends can come together on a Sunday afternoon and just relax as they wait for their cars to be dusted clean. This is no more. If you walk around the normal chilling spots, you will realize that they are empty.”
Joan Job, another carwash loyalist said: “now I have to drive a further distance to wash my car. In turn this means more petrol consumption and be in the company of people I do not know while my car gets washed.”
In the same light, bar owners also got the whipping as customers who would usually be sipping on beer while their cars gets washed no longer come by. “Usually the bar is full of people who come get their cars washed but over the past weeks it has been very dry. So business has really gone down,” said Hileni Mweutako.
As car wash owners are filled with the uncertainty of job security and what once was a means of earning is no more, fear is bond to loom. What is evident is that hundreds have lost the opportunity to feed families, those with bars no longer make as much and goodbye to the lovely weekend sessions with friends while cars get washed. The brighter side of the picture is that the water crisis will not be so much a threat any longer. Hopes are that an amicable solution will be found.
In spite of this, carwash owners will continue to operate illegally if the system seems to be working against them and not for them. Drastic measures are required to salvage the situation as the effects that are associated to it are much greater than the problem. In essence the strength of crisis management is not good vs bad, it’s preventing the bad from getting worse.