8ste Laan: Shattered Realizations

Written by Isidore Noel
My car got broken into last weekend. By the time I made it to PG Glass the next morning, it was too late to get service. Seeing that I didn’t intend to drive around the whole weekend with a shattered window I asked my cousin for help. Luckily, due to the fact that our population is so small, he knew somebody who knew some people who fix car windows. These people live in 8ste Laan. I had heard of the informal settlement that lies adjacent to the Otjomuise area of Windhoek before. However, I was ill prepared for the mental journey that I was about to find myself on.

Arriving in 8ste Laan, I noticed a crossing of Frankfurt/Kitunda street and knowing nothing about Kitunda, my first thought was what has Frankfurt, a city in Germany done for the people in this area?
This area was established as a recreational area, almost a century after the German colonial era in
Namibia had ended. Thereupon I googled Kitunda and found out that it is a town and an administrative
ward in the Ilala district of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. This brought it a little closer to home. And that is what consequently had me thinking of what exactly has the current Namibian government done for the people living in 8ste Laan.

As I looked around, the thing that stood out mostly was the collection of houses, if you can call it that made of sheets of corrugated iron. In the area where I stood, there were no tarred roads and most of the area was covered in bush and rocks even on the paths leading to the iron shacks. Upon arrival, my service providers told me that we would have to drive somewhere else as they would not be able to cut the glass for the window because the tool they use for that requires electricity. I was perplexed that people live in the capital city of Windhoek without electricity. I started asking the most ridiculous and naïve questions that would have never crossed my mind outside a village, like “How do you charge your cellphones?” I was told that they walk to nearby locations where they know somebody who can do them that simple favor that we inside the city take for granted. Of course, I had to then ask where they get their water from. Apparently, there are a few taps around, but none close to the shack where we were.

For the first time that day I saw my unfortunate incident in a bigger picture. I have made it through
school and university, gotten a job and struggled to get all the other material possessions I have.
However, I cannot fathom the struggles that somebody who breaks into my car has gone through to get
his daily bread in Namibia. Yes, I know you get the thief that chooses this lifestyle out of laziness or out of lack of better decisions. What about the person, though, who did not have the same opportunities as me to decorate his or her CV with accomplishments similar to mine? And the person, who has over time tried to stay on the right and honest path and seen that neither his fellow countrymen nor his government will give him a chance to excel in life? Maybe, just maybe, somebody as skilled as the guys who fixed my window and did a good job doing so, but has to rely on sporadic phone calls from people who might know people who need a service, because he does not have the qualifications nor the experience in a recoqnised company and thus cannot get a decent job, had broken into my car. To every one of us, our own struggle is the realest to us. It is what we can relate to the best. What makes somebody else’s struggle less worth fighting for than mine? How can I be mad at somebody who makes my fight for survival harder, when I do not know what hardships they have survived?

And still, these are the people, the government is bombarding with eviction letters. People who
live so isolated in their poverty that even a newspaper where they could perhaps read up about job

opportunities, that is if they can read, is a luxury. In a land of just over 2 million inhabitants and millions that go missing each year from government custody, I asked myself again, if this suffering is really necessary?

When I later dropped the guys back at their shack, I left with a fixed car window, but a broken heart.
I have heard people say that things have become worse after Apartheid; and although I do not agree with this comparison on many levels, I understand anybody who sees it that way. These citizens see how economic freedom has not come to the community at grassroots levels. Namibians are still divided along economic lines just like they were then. What makes it worse now is that the villain of that class separation has the same colour as that of the masses.

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