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Lords of War strike terror by looting entire beer cargo

Just before seven this Friday morning, an interlink carrying 33 tonnes of beer had to swerve to avoid a collision on the Monte Christo Road close to the intersection at Van Eck Power Station in Windhoek. The truck did not overturn but the cargo became dislodged and the entire load was dumped unceremoniously on the road.

What ensued was a horror scene reminiscent of the movie Lord of War where Nicolas Cage quickly dispatched his contraband cargo of highly dangerous munitions to unsuspecting villagers, just to avoid detection by American war crimes authorities.

Within seconds after the beer crates hit the surface with a load crash, total chaos broke out. Several taxis almost collided in their hasty attempt to stop. Hundreds of people jumped taxis, and dozens more came running from as far as the Natis test grounds. Every person I observed quickly grabbed two crates of beer, one in each hand, and started making off with their loot.

When the City of Windhoek Traffic Cops arrived about 10 minutes later, only shards of glass were left.

I observed Kapana memes abandoning their stalls and their ware to dash for a crate or two. I even saw a young boy dump his supermarket trolley full of eepungu, to attempt to load four crates. This proved to be too heavy and the trolley fell over but he still managed to vacate the scene of the crime with two crates in his makeshift, stolen trolley now turned contraband conveyor.

It is superfluous to state that I was flabbergasted.

An enquiry with Namibia Breweries Limited later in the morning confirmed that the truck, owned by Steyn Transport and operated by Imperial Logistics Namibia, shed its cargo after trying to avoid a collision. The truck had barely completed the first kilometre of its journey en route to a NBL customer when the incident happened. “None of the stock was recovered due to pilferage” the Breweries’ spokesperson stated tersely.

The Breweries was not prepared to state the value of the loss but this must have been more than pennies. 33 tonnes of beer do not come free of charge. “Such incidents can not be predicted and unfortunately we do not have control over the public when it comes to pillaging.”

It is immaterial what the value of the loss is. I am sure both the Breweries and its customers must be insured against this type of loss in transit. What concerns me most is the prevailing mentality displayed simultaneously on the same spot by a few hundred people. What was not broken was simply carried away with joyful abandon, as if the looters had any right to pilfer the beer.

This is perhaps our single biggest problem in our own development – a pervasive disregard for the law and an equally pervasive rotten culture of entitlement.

What on this earth makes the people who stole the beer from this morning’s scene, believe that they have a right to it, simply because if was involved in an accident.

We will never go one step further than a very basic, primitive village mentality when the majority of us believe we have a right to take what is not ours. And it was not even done in an apprehensive way, the people I saw revelled in the opportunity to score something from another’s misfortune. It was clear as daylight that this mentality is wired into their make-up and that they were convinced they had the right to steal.

This incident goes so deep into our psyches and our belief systems, it is scary to think what else we can contrive, when stealing comes so easily and naturally, almost like picking wild fruit in the bush.

We have had many consecutive so-called strategic plans and development strategies, each one with its own fancy title, time-frame and anticipated outcomes. We live on assigning new labels to old conventions, and then to offer them as the next 5-year, solve-all solution. Meanwhile we accomplish very little.

I think, to a certain extent, we are wasting our money if we do not address the ethical issues first. I hope that the new Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, being led by a Man of the Cloth, can make a difference in this regard.

What good is it to talk about good governance and all the civilities that are parade with it, if we ourselves can not exercise a very basic discretion to determine what is right and what is wrong. If the beer gave us one empirical clue, it is that we are very very far from being a civilized bunch. If the human material is inadequate in the first place, everything else we strive for, is compromised.

Namibia Breweries will probably gloss over this affair, after all it is not the first time that a cargo is lost, and it will happen again. But the indelible mark it made on my mind forces me to re-assess the real progress we are making on this arduous road called Development.

About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The Economist started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at www.economist.com.na. It is the first Namibian newspaper to go fully digital. Daniel Steinmann is an authority on macro-economics having established a sound record of budget analysis, strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of journalism students as interns and as young professional jourlists. He regularly helps economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to daniel@economist.com.na