Even in the Cold, Exile Kids Won’t Budge

Sunbathing, breastfeeding or just loitering around, the ‘struggle kids’ in Okahandja Park yesterday awaited their fate amidst threats of eviction.

Having caused havoc last weekend when they blocked a road in Katutura, stoned vehicles, burnt tyres and even extorted N$2 from each passing motorist, the group is again back in the spotlight.

But upon our visit to their camp yesterday, the group did not look at all shaken or worried by talks of their pending eviction.

And while the country has endured harsh chilly weather since Sunday, the ‘struggle kids’ – 26 of whom are breastfeeding – paid little attention to the frigid weather that is set to worsen in the coming days.

Their only concern, it appeared, is joblessness and the struggle to feed themselves and their babies.

They did not seem to harbour any regrets regarding their illegal action of last weekend – blocking roads and, almost forcefully, demanding money from motorists – but city authorities said such behaviour would no longer be tolerated.

“Our duty, as law enforcement, is to ensure that they will not disturb motorists on the road by making illegal mini roadblocks,” City Police Chief Abraham Kanime said.

He said the municipality has no power to remove them from the land they currently occupy, as it belongs to the Trustco group.

“For us to remove them, we need to go through a court interdict. The land belongs to Trustco, it is not municipal land.”

As if the cold and breastfeeding were not enough, the 26 mothers – and indeed the rest of the group – are struggling to put food on the table. Potable water too is a scarcity in the camp.

But these are not enough forces to move the group – not until their demands for jobs are met, they said.

“We don’t have firewood to make fire instead we use planks,” the group leader, known to his peers as Major General Jesaya, said.

“Sometimes we go into the location to ask good Samaritans to help us with water. We feel Swapo has neglected and failed us in their promise to give us jobs. No one brings us food and we can go for a day or two without eating.”

The fact that the ‘struggle kids’ who demonstrated in the past had secured jobs is a source of inspiration for the current group to remain steadfast in their demand for work.

“People must stop accusing us of being unruly. We are disciplined. We were born Swapo and we will die Swapo,” Jesaya remarked.

Most of them sleep on cardboards without mattresses. There are no toilets on the property and if nature calls they relieve themselves in the nearby veld. They moved to Okahandja Park following their forceful removal in 2012 from the land they illegally occupied near the Swapo Party headquarters in Katutura.

The group wants a new leadership in the Namibian Exile Kids Association (NEKA), saying the association’s current leaders have failed to address their plight.

They also demanded that government repatriates the remains of their parents who died in Angola during the liberation struggle. “If they come and remove us from here, then they must take us back to Angola where our parents are buried,” said group member Martin Shikuma.

“Why do they spend so much money collecting the remains of certain individuals and leave our parents’ remains behind? We want our parents’ remains to be repatriated, even if they were buried in mass graves such as Cassinga.”

Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Dr Nickey Iyambo had earlier told New Era that government would like to repatriate the remains of all heroes who died in exile during the struggle for independence.

“Of course it is our wish as government to repatriate the remains of all the leaders but we are finding it hard to find their graves. As you can recall they died way back and the graves are not in formalised cemeteries hence it is difficult to find the remains of leaders we want to repatriate,” he said at the time.

Source : New Era