Omuthiya Elections

The results of the Omuthiya municipal election are in. A lot of people were watching this result since the entry of a breakaway faction from SWAPO (Rally for Democracy and Progress or RDP) into the political arena. It has long been a theory that only a split in SWAPO will ever see the creation of a strong opposition party. About a decade ago, that hope was the Congress of Democrats, or the COD. Recently, however, the COD has been hampered by bitter infighting with different factions taking each other to court. As a result, all eyes were on Omuthiya, a newly declared town in Northern Namibia as a true test of the RDP’s mettle. To understand the significance, we have to look back to recent elections for Regional Councilor in the Eenhana Constituency. It was the first election in which the RDP made a run. They lost badly, but coming as it did shortly after the party was registered, conventional wisdom was that this was not a true test of their strength. Omuthiya, it was felt, would give them a chance to get their on the ground structures up and running, and make a show of it.

When the 1453 votes were counted, SWAPO got 89%, the RPD go 8%, the COD 2%. Now, back when the RDP was formed, some considered the creation of this new party, loaded as it was with a few former SWAPO heavyweights, as one of the major watershed events of our country’s political history. Some even put it up there with Independence in 1990. For these hopeful prognosticators Saturday morning, when the results flew in SMS format around the country, must have been a disappointment. If anything, it looks like most of what the RDP could muster is to corral votes from the COD. Given the current problems of the COD, this is not surprising. Inroads into SWAPO’s broad support in Northern Namibia were not built.

Now, attention turns to the by-election for Regional Councilor in the Tobias Hanyenko Constituency, part of the sprawling of Katutura settlement on the outskirts of Windhoek. This again is SWAPO territory, but, there is a twist. The former SWAPO Councillor was excommunicated from the Party due to his activities on behalf of the RDP. This lead to the by-eleciton being called, and the former Councilor will stand as the RDP’s candidate against his former comrades. We’ll have the result by the end of October, and it will be interesting to see if the RDP has the legs some think (hoped) it might have in a mano á mano bought against SWAPO.

Random Thoughts

First, and update on the tomatoes. They are thriving. Have had one scare with frost, but otherwise I now have more tomatoes than We can handle. Not one sighting of a red spider mite ..... yet.

Second, had to get a lock repaired the other day. It’s a lock on the security gate which means the whole assembly has to be cut out with a torch, replaced then welded back in. When you call a locksmith, they can’t do it because they don’t do torches, when you call a welder, they don’t do locks. You can sense the frustration. In desperation, after a morning of calls, visits to hardware stores, anywhere, my last stop was a lock and security shop in our most trendy mall. The guy behind the counter was polite while I told him my tale of woe, then he reached back to a container, pulled out a card and sais, “Give Jimi a call. he comes out to your house right away.”

Back home, I expected another polite brush off from Jimi, but he took my details and came over. To make the story short, the lock is now fixed. Just another case of two merchants getting together to give each other some business once in a while. Later that night it hit me. Jimi is black, he lives in Old Katutura, in what is the old Herero Location. The guy at the shop is a young white Afrikaans speaking boy, and judging from the people working there, it’s pretty much a family operation. Sure, its not a trend, but it is interesting. Economics, the need to make a buck, has at least in this instance, crossed some divides we once felt unsurmountable.

Suriving Paris as a Nambian Driver

Many of us Namibians drive according to what I like to call “Mariental Rules.” That is, we are so used to our space, our uncluttered roads (those nasty five minute traffic jams in Windhoek three times a day, excepted) that we take what seems like forever to do the most simple of traffic maneuvers. In extreme cases of Mariental Rules, you don’t pull into oncoming traffic if you can see a car coming. In the desert, especially at night, this can be a problem because one sees a vehicle from many kilometers away, and you can sit at that junction for up to 15 minutes waiting for that car to pass.

In Paris, however, Mariental Rules do not work, instead one has to acquire “superior driving skills.” Once you have “superior driving skills” other drivers on the road make way in gracious acknowledgment. This is how you get around Paris. The key of course is to maintain “superior driving skills.” This is not as simple as it sounds as there are may ways to diminish those skills. For example, using the turn indicators is a sign of weakness, fellow motorists will pick up on this immediately and you will be moved to the bottom of the hierarchy. Similarly, excessive use of your rear and side view mirrors is a sure fire path to inferiority. A true master of the roads keeps his or her vision fixed squarely on that seam between vehicles that he or she wants to weave through. Never, ever, ever enter a roundabout and stay in an outside lane. This is a sign of ultimate inferiority. Instead, you must cut straight through to the inner lane with complete disdain for other traffic, then exit again with a swift slash rightward to your desired exit. Only this way will you survive. Buses and large lorries often have ‘superior driving skills” regardless of your capabilities, but not always.

One last point: scooters and motorcycle in Paris exist in a parallel and concurrent universe. They operate according to different laws of Physics. Don’t pay them much mind as they whizz past and around yours and the other cars on the road. Doing so only causes other drivers to belittle your “superior driving skills.”

..... it comes around: Some sense on fatherhood

A very interesting article in The Namibian today. All eight traditional leaders in the Oshiwambo speaking areas “have agreed that men who impregnate girls will have to compensate them.” This is a welcome return to the way things were. In the past there was always a fine, usually in terms of livestock, that a young man had to pay for getting a girl pregnant. The practice withered as part of the pressure of colonial rule on indigenous societies. Payment for causing pregnancy did more than simply provide income. It also implied acknowledged public responsibility of the man for the child. The breakdown of this practice has caused untold suffering to women and their children who paid over a lifetime, and whose economic and social contributions were stunted by the stigma of a child borne out of wedlock. Men under this broken system often continued their lives as if nothing happened. Back in the early 1980s, when I first entered Namibian society, I was regularly asked, “How many children to you have over in America?” “None,” I would reply, and immediately there was puzzlement on the face of my questioner. Perhaps they wondered if I was gay, or didn’t like women for some reason, or had some strange illness. I quickly learned to explain that where I grew up, the courts were very strict about making men pay child support, and that they could even attach part of my salary before it was paid out. This, I explained, made one very careful about birth control. If I was talking to a woman, her response was usually “That’s a very good thing.” If I was talking to a man, it was usually, “I never want to live there!” Regardless of whether or not the fines and payments can be made to stick, the idea that communities declare irresponsible fatherhood as unacceptable behavior is a good thing.

The Perfect Tomato

Below is the dreaded Red Spider Mite. The Scourge of all gardeners who want to grow a decent tomato. There are two explanations of its rise.
First, it’s not indigenous to Southern Africa, which means no natural predators. Second, it has always been here, and its natural predators were wiped out by the overuse of pesticides. For years I’ve watched helplessly as unseen thousands colonized my tomato plants, turing them into disfigured, wrinkled and barren bits of foliage. After much time at local nurseries and hours spent following directions of this or that, Google turned out to be my friend.

One suggestion I found was to plant later in the year, outside the Mite’s main growth season. Usually, here in Southern Africa, we plant somewhere in November, and expect a crop in late January. Inexorably, however, the Mite won out. The Google link brought me back to the last, and only time I had decent tomato plants -- one year when I was preoccupied, and only got them into the ground in late March. It was a mild winter so those plants were still producing that November when I pulled them out of the ground to make way for the new recruits. So this year, at the end of February, I ripped out this season’s already withered plants, waited a couple of weeks, and got the last batch of seedlings. They are now tall, green and full of fruits. It’s not the same as plucking a fresh vine tomato on a hot hot day and taking a bite and thinking of a bowl of gazpacho, but probably for making sauce and soups they’ll do just fine.

Namibia Notes

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