Namibia: Drought Relief Food ‘Forgotten’ in Headman’s Bar

Residents of Okambebe village in Ohangwena region have expressed anger over drought relief food that went to waste because the headman allegedly packed and locked it in his bar.

When New Era visited the building where the food was locked, community members said they are extremely sad that the food expired because the headman failed to disperse it to the eligible members upon its delivery.

“The food has been locked in his cuca shop since 2020,” a community member vented.

One of the villagers said he managed to get the inside view of the headman’s cuca shop, through the window and observed bags of maize meal packed on the floor.

This revelation captured the community members’ attention, which forced them to seek help from the councillor of Ongenga constituency. On Friday, a delegation consisting of the councillor, police, media and members of the constituency paid a visit to the headman’s business premises to confirm the allegations. Upon arrival, the bar’s keys were nowhere to be found, allegedly since they got lost in 2020.

This forced the authorities to break open the door to ascertain if the rumours were true. To their surprise, they found 12 bags of expired maize meal and five bottles of cooking oil. A 65-year-old Okambebe resident told New Era they are heartbroken because the food meant for the community is locked in a building while many are out there starving. “It is not right to keep the relief food to yourself while your people are sleeping on empty stomachs. Our headman has no sympathy at all,” the resident said.

Another resident (name withheld for fear of reprisal), informed New Era that the keys were not lost and he knew that there had been food in the cuca shop. “The headman and the committee which distributes drought relief food have failed to let the community know that the remaining food is kept or stored in that cuca shop. If that was done, the food could have been distributed to the needy long ago,” he said.

A young man expressed his anger that the headman usually conducts meetings within the village, yet he and his delegation did not mention anything regarding the relief food stored in his bar.

When he was granted time to respond, the headman, Filemon Nghipangwa, said he was not aware that there was food in his cuca shop since he had not visited his bar in a while.

“I thought we distributed everything. I did not know there were still some people who did not get their share. But I remember there were some maize meal bags that didn’t get the right owners, but I never got the details afterwards if they were finally distributed or not,” Nghipangwa explained.

“Therefore, I know nothing about the remaining food. I was even shocked when the councillor asked if I had drought food in the bar, because I had no idea,” said Nghipangwa.

He said his children renovated the bar and thought the food was already distributed by then.

“After the renovation in 2020, the kids misplaced the keys and due to that, I did not get any chance to visit my cuca shop. From 2021 until this day, I did not step foot in that bar. I seriously did not get the moment to see that the remaining food is still present in my bar,” Nghipangwa clarified.

“I am thankful to whoever brought this issue to light. My apologies to the community that the food is no longer fit for human consumption and it is my fault I failed to give it to those in need,” he said.

The community members said Nghipangwa is lying, he knew there was food in his bar and in fact, he regularly visits his bar. Councillor of the Ongenga constituency Mathew Shikongo said it is inhumane to the villagers and the entire nation that the government’s food went to waste when they have a lot of people in need of food.

He advised the residents to keep reporting issues of this nature straight to his office.

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