The struggle is real…
Unemployed, homeless people and outcasts of society are found globally, trying to make a living on the streets, and the beautiful holiday town of Swakopmund is no exception.
Living in poverty with each and every day a struggle to survive; this forms the backdrop for many of the town’s residents with nobody seeming to care. Young and old, women, children but mostly men eke out a living especially in the town’s Mondesa suburb, pushing grocery trolleys (usually pinched from shop premises).
These “lorries” as they are called are vital to the survival of these outcasts, as it is used to transport mostly scrap metal and empty bottles to be sold for food and definitely something for the dry throat.
An investigation by The Patriot revealed that nothing is taken for granted in this lifestyle and that this is what they consider as they their day’s assignment. Spending time with them for some time proved that these people are not beggars and definitely not lazy to work.
Chopping up an old car body for scrap with only a small axe as a tool is no joke, but for these guys its part of their day job.
A job they feel is worth their while since one could easily get around N$300-500 for the body. Not willing to hire someone with a bakkie to transport the body to the scrapyard, which is about 2-4 kilometres away, the guys tied three of the “lorries” close to one another and the car body parts are transported for free through traffic, barking dogs, insults by some people, with some of them even cheering on the guys, all the way to the scrap yard where “pay-day” is waiting.
With the trolleys emptied and a few dollars in the pocket it’s straight to the nearest water hole, where a bottle of their favourite drink, Rhumba, is number one on the agenda. A bottle of Rhumba (750ml) sells for around N$50.00.
After that it is onwards to buy something to eat – fat cakes and “osoppa”(matangara soup) from the memes down the street. This is a favourite meal for many and don’t forget a piece of meat to take home with. One fat cake sells for only N$1.50 and the soup is for mahala (free).
With the empty stomachs full, the next stop is the shebeen, where a jar of homemade beer (tombo) will further quench the inevitable thirst. This is just another ordinary day in the lives of these guys, with tomorrow awaiting for a new “zula”, starting from scratch.
As the unofficial, self-proclaimed “spokesperson” of the group noted, “Nobody ever said life was easy, but where there is a will, there is a way my brother.”
He in the same breath asked for anonymity making a plea for us not to publish their names, or pictures of their faces. However, he was quick to ask the paper to urge Swakopmund residents who want to get rid of scrap metal at their premises to get in touch with them. “We do it for free…,” the “spokesperson concluded. This is but one of the many tales of survival on the streets of Swakopmund, where only the strong survive.
Community leader and activist at Swakopmund, Mr Freddy van Wyk noted that this is a very serious issue and that he is very well aware of it. He fumed, stating that a portion of tax payers money should be utilized to assist these people in the form of shelters, or at least one decent meal per day.
“It is high time that the Government takes responsibility and put drastic measures in place to try and help these people to regain some of their dignity. Most of them are alcoholics and their families find it financially difficult to assist them with a place to sleep or food so they have no choice but to live on the streets,” van Wyk remarked.
He further mentioned that he personally had a scenario a while ago when two homeless people asked for his help, just for a place to sleep and some food. “I gave them food and some blankets, but could unfortunately not assist them with a place to sleep.
However, I’ve tried everywhere I could think of in Swakopmund to try and organise them a roof over their heads, but in vain. This situation brought me to a standstill once again and made me think as to what to do with people who really might want to change their lives for the better, but just need a little support to get back on track.
Thus, I want to urge our community and the Government to intervene and have some empathy for these people.”
Van Wyk also minced no words when he took on the Church’s responsibility towards the poor and homeless. “Churches receive money through their congregations and also from sponsors and according to the Bible this money earned by Churches should be used to assist those in need.
Do these homeless people, living on the streets, not fall in the same category? Do churches not feel guilty when people have to live in utmost poverty on the streets? I urge them to practise what they preach and be there for their fellow human beings, as this is the way Jesus Christ instructed us to be” van Wyk concluded. He and his wife Babsie are planning to launch a Non-Governmental Organisation in order to assist the poor and homeless.
Responding on questions in this regard, Cecilia Puteho of the Swakopmund municipality’s Public Relations and Communications Department, acknowledged that the municipality is aware of the scenario.
She further noted that “the Municipality of Swakopmund is an equal opportunity employer.
Therefore, job opportunities are usually created for everyone, from time to time contract workers are hired and we also take in interns who we give an allowance to. Unfortunately, we cannot give everyone a job as we are limited by the municipal budget and we also have a labour act to follow.
It should be noted that some of the people seen pushing trolleys are reclaimers making a living from reclaiming, sorting and cleaning reusable materials such as bricks, scrap metal, tyres and bottles. They sell these products at a minimal price. All the reclaimers are registered with the Health Department of Swakopmund Municipality.
As a municipality we also believe that Namibia’s waste sector has many untapped business opportunities and that is why we support the reclaimers by also encouraging the public to support them by buying bricks and reusable materials from them.”
Meanwhile the lives of the “trolley pushers” go on in another world where survival of the fittest is the name of the game and it is a daily struggle to “Zula 2 Survive”. All this in order to fill an empty stomach and quench the interminable thirst.