Border residents badly affected by lockdown


Placido Hilukilwa

THE closure of the international border between Namibia and Angola has seriously affected border area residents who are used to crossing the border at will, either to visit friends and relatives, do shopping, look for better grazing for the cattle or seek medical care.

 

From Ruacana in the Omusati Region to Katwitwi in the Kavango-West Region, the border is a mere gravel road and people and animals can freely cross it anywhere, anytime.

 

All cross-border movements were, however, stopped following the declaration of the state of emergency in both countries, an extraordinary step meant to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus that is currently devastating the world.

 

This has affected lifestyles and the livelihood of border area residents.

 

Namibian border residents mostly graze their livestock in southern Angola, while Angolan border residents mostly do their shopping and seek medical care in Namibia, which is now practically impossible.

 

Even though all border area residents interviewed by Informanté agree, in principle, with the state of emergency and the subsequent lockdown, they also pointed out they the negative effects on their way of life and their livelihood.

 

Due to the recent drought, thousands of Angolans in the southern provinces such as Cuando-Cubango and Cunene, depend on food and money provided by their relatives employed or doing business in Namibia, but this is no longer possible.

 

Picture for illustrative purposes only.

 

Due to the recent drought, thousands of Angolans in the southern provinces such as Cuando-Cubango and Cunene, depend on food and money provided by their relatives employed or doing business in Namibia, but this is no longer possible.

 

“My parents have a traditional homestead near Cuamato in Ombadja and I am the only breadwinner in the family. My family’s harvest was poor last year and this year’s harvest is not yet ready. To make matters worse, I cannot travel to Angola and my parents cannot cross the border into Namibia to collect the money for food, neither is there any commercial bank where I can transfer the money for them” said Pedro Sheuyange, a Walvis Bay-based seaman who said that he is not the only one in that situation.

 

“Most of those small boys you see selling recharge vouchers, polonies and boiled eggs on the street, are sustaining their families in Angola, sending food or money across the border regularly,” he said.

 

Ambrose Shitaleni, who resides on the Angolan side of the border, but runs his informal trade at Omuvelo Wa Kashamane, said he is now cut off from his source of income, describing the situation as “really bad”.

 

Sources say that Angolan border residents seeking medical care in Namibia are still allowed to enter the country, but the screening is very strict and only those going for a follow up or on chronic medication or victims of accidents are allowed in.

 

This could not be confirmed independently.

 

Contacted for comment, Police spokesperson in Omusati, Lineekela Shikongo, said he will only give a detailed response after consulting those who are on the ground.

 

Meanwhile, police vans with loudspeakers are driving through the streets and informal settlements in the northern towns ordering those loitering on the streets to go home.

 

“You two sitting there in the front of Pep, stand up and go home,” shouted a police officer before turning to other four men standing idly near a service station: “Hey, you, go home, now!”