The Bucket World of Kalkfeld

AN OLD woman in Kalkfeld, a settlement that is sinking into oblivion, wakes up on a chilly Tuesday morning to prepare for another hopeless day ahead.

Kalkfeld, once a town when businesses were open and people had jobs, was downgraded to just a settlement a few years ago when businesses closed and people moved out in search of new pastures and new beginnings.

Today, the settlement between Otjiwarongo and Omaruru, is home to about 5 000 people whose lives are still stuck in the pre-independence era. Apart from using bucket toilets, people in the settlement have no jobs and proper houses. The settlement has also been left out of the much talked about mass housing programme.

The old woman, Frederica Hanes, starts her day by removing the family’s bedding from the stuffy makeshift house, and hangs them on the corrugated iron sheets that are part of the structure.

The structure, made of clay, corrugated iron and scrap material, looks as if it can barely accommodate three people, but Hanes, who says she does not know her age, shares this shelter with her two granddaughters and seven great-grandchildren.

As she cleans the living area, Hanes talks about the hardships the people in the settlement face and endure. She complains about lack of clean water and sanitation. Her biggest wish to have a dignified house and potable water, a toilet and electricity.

“We have to collect water far away. We only have the bush for toilets,” she says. “You know, we also do not have an ambulance here. You will have to wait for one from Otjiwarongo,” she continues.

Hanes says when the local clinic cannot treat people, they call for an ambulance from Otjiwarongo, about 60 km away.

“I do not know who the councillor is,” she says, when asked about addressing her complaints with the elected regional councillor.

Like Hanes, many people in Kalkfeld have no proper houses. They live in makeshift shelters. Some in the settlement have taken aantage of building their shelters on concrete slabs that were left by Spoorweg, the apartheid equivalent of TransNamib.

Spoorweg used to set up temporary homes on the concrete slabs, while working on the railway line in the area.

Not far away, two men walking a black dog also join the discussion. They start talking about the same issues irking Hanes.

The men introduce themselves as Herry Lawyer (28) and Arnold Nomchab (28), who say they have lived in Kalkfeld all their lives.

Lawyer says the settlement has been using bucket toilets as far as he can remember. A few years ago, government made money available to build toilets for the settlement, but today only manholes remain as a reminder that there was once a sewer network.

The toilets were never built, he recalls, adding that community members complained of the bucket toilets in the settlement saying it is a 24-year-old problem, which government does not seem interested in solving. The toilets in question are made of corrugated iron sheets and have no privacy inside them with a row of buckets lined up underneath a wooden plank, with human waste all over the floor, the walls and the area outside the toilet.

A member of the settlement’s development committee says N$2 million was allocated to building by government in 2006, but nothing happened.

“I think Kalkfeld is in Botswana or South Africa. That is why government does not care about us,” the community leader remarks.

Lawyer complains further about lack of opportunities and jobs. He remembers that agriculture minister John Mutorwa promised last year that Kalkfeld residents will be employed to do temporary work, like trench digging, when the government starts its project to bring water to the community.

When Namwater started work, however, the company brought its own workers from elsewhere.

Mutorwa denies making promises but confirms that bringing water to Kalkfeld is a government priority. He also confirms having gone to Kalkfeld last year to address the water crisis and says work is being done.

Lawyer further complains about the fact that the regional councillor responsible for their community resides in Otjiwarongo.

“I last saw the councillor last year, but before he was elected he would come every Wednesday and attend to our problems,” Lawyer says.

The appalling living conditions facing the Kalkfeld community forced its developmental committee to write letters to their regional councillor, Otto Iipinge and to Otjozondjupa governor, Samuel Nuyoma.

The letters, according to community members, are a request that Kalkfeld becomes a constituency on its own. This would allow for a resident councillor who could address their problems.

Iipinge confirmed receiving the letters, but refused to comment further.

Source : The Namibian