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When people do not have enough food, AU political aspirations become irrelevant

When people do not have enough food, AU political aspirations become irrelevant

Unbeknownst to most Namibians, the southern parts of Angola did not share the good rains which Namibia in general received during the rain season at the beginning of the year.

This was due to the South Atlantic high pressure cell, consistently moving far north up the west coast of Africa and entering Angola from the ocean over about two-thirds of its coastline. The result was disappointing rainfall in much of Angola’s southern third.

It was quite noticeable at the end of the rain season, roughly around April, that Namibia’s Four O regions in the north did not get the same good rains as the central plateau. This was evidenced in Owamboland where the mahangu planting season started late and where repeated heatwave conditions had a negative impact on crops.

Fortunately, the situation in Owambo was not as bad as in southern Angola for one basic reason: the south to north airflow along the coast from the leading rim of the high pressure cell, stayed mainly offshore until it reached the central Angolan coastline. It was only at that point that it entered the continent but it had a devastating effect on crops in the central parts of southern Angola.

The food situation became so severe that wandering bands of people started crossing from Angola into Namibia to try and find food at local villages. Some reports estimate that as many as 10,000 Angolans may have entered Namibia during April, May and June this year in their attempts to locate forage.

I think this may be an exaggeration, probably based on anecdotal evidence from various villages spread over hundreds of kilometres along the Namibia Angola border. But the fact remains that on several documented occasions, groups of more than one hundred people crossed over into Namibia.

The border between Namibia and Angola is not exactly what one would expect for areas that are relatively densely populated. It is a very long border, running nearly 1400 kilometres from the Atlantic to the Kwando but the food shortages did not happen in all communities along this entire length. The problems were mainly in the roughly 350 kilometres where Angola borders Omusati and Ohangwena, and they were more severe in the western section than in the east.

When winter approached and we were beset by the third Covid wave, rural conditions in the north were taken over by events. Safeguarding Namibian became a much bigger priority than feeding emaciated Angolans.

But the southern Angolans and the northern Namibians are ethnically the same group of people so it is also not possible to completely ignore the plight of our ‘Angolan brothers’, so to speak. Still, I was under the impression the Angolan food situation was resolved. That was until about three weeks ago when a friend, living close to the borderline, informed me that more than one hundred Angolans, out of nowhere suddenly appeared at their village and they had to quickly make emergency arrangements to collect food from all the other villages in the district. The immediate need of the groups of strays was simply much bigger than one village could provide.

It was when I was approached for a contribution that this issue came to my attention again. It was more or less at the same time when the alleged discovery of productive petroleum systems in the Kavango regions caused such a public outcry.

The irony did not escape me. Angola is considered one of the most important oil producers on the continent. If I remember correctly, it ranks at number 7 globally, in any event sufficiently high enough to guarantee it an OPEC vote.

This oil wealth has produced some spectacularly rich people of which Isabel dos Santos is only one, and also the convenient scapegoat for the sins of hundreds of other individuals, close to the circles of power, who have enriched themselves over many years from Angola’s incredible wealth.

Still, they do not have money to supply emergency food relief for about 400,000 of their own people, their own compatriots, who had to resort to scavenging in the bush or knocking on their relatives’ doors in Namibia.

This is a disgusting shame and one more clot on the canvas of the hopelessly ruined Angola. It is also a point never mentioned where Angola’s former leadership must be brought to justice. All that the popular media concern themselves with is putting the spotlight on Isabel dos Santos, conveniently forgetting that it was impossible for her to accumulate her enormous wealth without the consent and complicity of hundreds of other equally guilty individuals.

Several fellow African have criticised me recently for my views on the African Union. They still believe it can become reality while I say it will take at least 50 years to create a modicum of unity, and only if other parties outside the continent, continue to paper over the workings in Addis Ababa with billions and billions of dollars.

Essentially, I am asking: “How can you dream of any sort of African unity, when right on our doorstep, we had to feed our neighbours because their own government failed to do so?” Where was the so-called African Union when Angolans were dying of hunger?


This image is from 2019 when Namibia experienced its worst drought in history. It shows the outline of the so-called Cuvelai basin which is a natural depression with the Etosha pan roughly as its lowest point. The drought in southern Angola in the first half of this year has been compared to the 2019 Namibian drought. The image shows the close proximity of communities in northern Namibia and southern Angola.


 

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 newspaper 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 https://economist.com.na. His editorial focus is on economic analysis based on budget analysis, dissecting 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 scores of journalism students as interns and as young professional journalists. He often assists 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 [email protected]

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