A tale of two 'oumas'

29 Dec 2015 06:40am

By Anna Salkeus and Peter Muronga (NAMPA FEATURES SERVICE) KALKRAND, 29 DEC (NAMPA) ? Ouma? (grandmother) Lydia Nero and 'Ouma' Saara Cloete grew up together at Kalkrand in the Hardap Region. The village is situated along the B1 national road and is the service centre and gateway for travellers using the road as well as nearby settlements like Schlip, Duineveld, Hoachanas and a number of farms and lodges. Kalkrand has a population of approximately 3 000 people, and falls under the jurisdiction of the Hardap Regional Council. As the two octogenarians look out at their surroundings in the tiny village between Rehoboth and Mariental during Nampa?s visit to the area recently, they recall how their lives have changed over the years. Both were born in the early 1930s, while Namibia was still known as South-West Africa. Employed as domestic workers, they only earned five Rands each, but never disputed the low monthly wage for fear of losing their only source of income. The two pensioners endured harsh living conditions and say their situation did not improve immediately after Namibia gained its Independence in 1990. In fact, only in the last few months have they started to notice a difference. Ouma Saara, 84, danced the ?Nama Stap? traditional dance as she slowly made her way across the dusty gravel road to her friend and neighbour, Ouma Lydia, to be interviewed by this news agency. ?You are going to be in the newspapers Ouma!? her neighbours exclaimed when she entered the yard and took a seat on an old wooden chair in the shade of a tree next to the barbed wire fence that separates her erf from a gravel road. At first there seemed to be a language barrier with the spirited pensioners speaking mostly Damara-Nama while the journalists switched between English and Afrikaans. Ouma Lydia's daughter, a former councillor for the Kalkrand Village Council, Emily van Staden was then called out of the small corrugated iron shack where she was busy with house work, to assist with translations between the reporters and the pensioners. After a brief introduction of who the journalists were and their interest in hearing about what life is like living at Kalkrand, the two pensioners simultaneously exclaimed that they would like to thank Government for increasing their monthly pension grant, which made their lives easier. Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein earlier this year announced that the monthly old-age pension will be increased by N.dollars 100 next year and another N.dollars 100 in 2017. Pensioners currently receive N.dollars 1 000 per month after it was increased from a meagre N.dollars 600 in April this year. It was the largest increase in the grant since Namibia gained its independence. ?We can finally live a decent life thanks to the government; we are really grateful. We were not humans before independence, but now we are,? Ouma Lydia said. A restless Ouma Saara barely sit still as she explained how the increased social grant has helped her and her family. ?Sugar, coffee, tea and maize meal was all we could buy with the N.dollars 600 we got from Government and then the money was finished,? she said, clapping once as she paces around in the shade. Today, they say that every pensioner at Kalkrand is able to get by with the new pension money, although it is not much. They explained that now, they are able to buy bread, rice, maize meal and other basic food supplies, and save at least N.dollars 200 each month. ?All we want now is proper housing to live in; a brick house like the ones white people live in,? Ouma Saara said jokingly. She said the shack she lives in becomes unbearable especially during summer when temperatures are even higher than usual. Ouma Lydia said the area where they live is located behind a river. ?The water sometimes runs down the road and floods our homes. We need better housing than the shacks we are living in. Basically, we are living in a riverbed,? she said. Despite the complaints, the two oumas and their relatives also see the lighter side of life. In 2013, Ouma Saara and Ouma Lydia were fortunate to undergo free cataract surgery conducted by a team of local and foreign eye specialists led by Dr Helena Ndume at Keetmanshoop. They were among a group of 10 people who were visually impaired to receive the free surgery. After the surgery, the two pensioners were placed in the same room to recover. When they woke up, they saw a couple of head-scarves they had never seen before placed between their beds. They started fighting over one particular headscarf, both claiming that it is hers even though they had never seen it, Ouma Lydia's daughter, Van Staden recalled laughingly. She added that it is something their neighbours still laugh about because no one can imagine how two people who were previously unable to see were able to tell which headscarf belongs to them. Today, they keep themselves busy by quilting dresses for themselves and their grandchildren. ?Other pensioners go out drinking in their spare time while we quilt together and make beaded bracelets for our grandchildren,? they said. (NAMPA) ANS/PM/AS/CT