Making Ends Meet In Walvis Bay

21 Dec 2015 10:00am
By Paulus Shiku

WALVIS BAY, 21 DEC (NAMPA) – While some have the privilege of bonuses to make the festive period a little more special than the rest of the year, a number of unemployed men in Walvis Bay are washing cars just to get by.
The close to 15 men wake up every morning and find their way to the parking area behind Pick ‘n Pay supermarket along Theo Ben Gurirab Street and Nangolo Mbumba Drive where they wash cars every day.
The men, most of who dropped out of school, run to every driver in the parking area and ask to wash the car for between N.dollars 10 and N.dollars 50 – depending on what the car owner is willing to part with in exchange for a clean car.
They have to support their unemployed parents in the northern regions such as Omusati and Oshana, where they came from in search of jobs at the harbour town.
Here they face the challenge of paying rent for the shacks they sleep in, as well as supporting their children and girlfriends for whom they have to buy food and clothes.
Sometimes if they are lucky and they have experience in welding or operating cranes they get temporary jobs. When their contracts end, it is back to the parking area.
As the year draws to an end, the need for money becomes even worse as they have to travel back home to spend Christmas and New Year with their families, hence the informal car wash initiative.
They use water from the public toilet in the parking area or sometimes bring their own from the Kuisebmond residential area where they live.
They know what they are doing is illegal but it is either this, or go home emptyhanded.
As soon as they see a police car approach the municipal parking, they disappear behind the nearest wall to avoid detention or a fine of N.dollars 300 for operating an illegal business.
Their stories are the same as that of the many unemployed, unskilled young Namibians youths who would do anything to make some money.
“I get between N.dollars 70 and 150 a day. In a month I might save N.dollars 3 000 with which I pay N.dollars 700 rent and send N.dollars 1 000 to my parents,” the 26-year-old Tangeni Jairus says as he talks about the odd jobs be does to survive.
He has been doing this kind of work for three years after dropping out of Grade 9 at Etayi village in the Omusati Region.
“I have a girlfriend and a daughter. Luckily primary school is free. We starve ourselves this time of the year to save money and go back to the village,” he says.
Petrus Shapumba, 23, from Iilambo village completed Grade 12, but could not qualify for further studies.
He has been here for one-and-a-half years.
Shapumba said sometimes they are picked up to clean houses and offices, or to offload and load goods for business.
“We need permanent jobs. Unfortunately people who are in positions of power only give their friends and family jobs,” he says.
The 25-year-old Johannes Tiloveta dropped out of Grade 8 at Onandjila village in Omusati.
He has been doing the same types of work for three years. Sometimes four days can pass without making a single cent.
“The police come and break our buckets. They tell us not to return here but we have no choice,” he says.
Approached for comment, Detective Chief Inspector Erastus Iikuyu of the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) says he is aware of the situation, but the power lies with the municipality.
He said if the police act on illegal businesses in town, it is based on the by-laws of the municipality, and if the municipality asks them to do so.
The Walvis Municipality’s manager of public relations and customer service, Kevin Adams explains that unregistered businesses are not allowed to operate in the town.
“The municipality’s business registration regulations stipulate that no person may engage in business within the area of a Local Authority unless a registration certificate has been issued by the Local Authority in respect of such business. It is for this reason that sometimes such people are told to leave,” he says.
Laws or no laws, the young men keep coming back day after day, hoping for another few dollars to make their Christmas with their families special.
“We are looking for bread, so we keep coming back,” a tired Tiloveta says.