THE continued lockdown of the Swakopmund and Walvis Bay during the various stages of the State of Emergency has left many residents destitute and in many more cases without food.
The commander of the security cluster in the Erongo Region and the Commandant of the Namibian Marine Corps, Captain Appolos Haimbala, said the desperate situation of an increasing number of people especially those that have been under continuous lockdown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has already been identified as the single greatest threat to the general security of the region.
“This is not the time for teargas and batons. Not when people are suffering from hunger. This is the time to assist the people who have fallen on hard times,” Captain Haimbala said.
He said a lot of people lost their jobs and most of them have no money left to sustain themselves. Some are organising demonstrations to air their grievances against the lockdown which goes against the State of Emergency regulations.
“This is not only put the demonstrators at risk but also the security of the region,” Captain Haimbala said.
While the Marine Commandant was making these remarks before the high-level government delegation that is on a fact-finding mission to the Local Authority Areas of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Arandis, community activists in holiday town were joined by desperate residents of the DRC neighbourhood of Mondesa to demand urgent food aid from the government.
One of the activists said that the group received reports that a number of children have been taken up in Swakopmund State Hospital in recent weeks because their families can simply no longer afford to feed them.
“It is tragic and unbearable that our people should die of hunger. We regard it as a form of torture of the poor and we fear that the hunger crisis will worsen unless we tackle it with great urgency to avoid the further loss of life. We demand monthly fish parcels for every Namibian household to end the hunger crisis. The government must ensure that a significant portion of all fishing quotas is used to supply fish parcels to Namibian households,” one activist said.
Besides staging the public demand for help from the government the Swakopmund Concerned Citizens’ Group like many others along the central Namibian coast started an online petition to get the lockdown lifted.
In the same vein residents of Walvis Bay have invited their neighbours in Swakopmund to join them in protest at Long Beach. They also aim to petition the government to open the Local Authority Areas of the three towns under lockdown.
Earlier in the week workers at a large fish factory in Walvis Bay staged a stand-in demonstration to beg the government to release fishing quotas in order for them to earn an honest living.
While addressing the nation at the beginning of July, President Hage Geingob stated that special dispensation for the three towns will continue until the 3rd day of August and pending a review, might remain under lockdown, while the rest of the country has already progressed to Stage 4 of the State of Emergency.
While the Erongo Region is facing its worst crisis in recent history, the Namibian Cabinet during its latest sitting directed the Ministry of Works and Transport to make 45 vehicles that were not yet delivered available to the Erongo security cluster as matter of urgency. In the same vein other Offices, Ministries and Agencies were directed to avail 45 more vehicles for the same purpose.
Captain Haimbala during the briefing of the high-level delegation on the security situation in the Erongo Region stated that several officers and soldiers have been placed in quarantine to await test results.
The Cabinet also directed the Ministry of Health and Social Services to prioritise the testing of officers and soldiers functioning in the security cluster that have been placed in quarantine as a result of contact with positive COVID-19 cases to enable them to return to work.
He said that despite the challenge that the security cluster faces that the force still has enough manpower on the ground to effectively police the various communities in different towns of the region.
With regards to gatherings, Captain Haimbala repeated the warning that people should refrain from joining in large groups to demonstrate their situation.
“Such gatherings are prohibited and we have issued a warning to people not to demonstrate. It will be unfortunate if soldiers and police officers have to intervene to disperse large gatherings of people in a time of need,” he said.
Captain Haimbala said it is not a time to use force but a time to mitigate the further spread of the virus.