South Africa is not only Namibia’s neighbour but also Namibia’s economic big brother.
But while the events of the past days continue to unfold and disturbing incidents of destruction of property, looting of shops and even loss of life are relayed across the borders through the media, there has not been any statement released by either the Government of Namibia or the business community.
This is despite the fact that there is so much at stake for the fact that not only is Namibia heavily dependent on South Africa economically, but also because the economic situation of South Africa (which has fuelled the violence) is similar to the situation in Namibia.
While the current wave of protests were triggered by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, most of the violent conduct is carried out by poor people who have seen an opportunity to loot and get some economic benefit out of the chaos.
As one protestor said live on TV camera: “We want to shake this economy, because even if the economy goes down or go up, we benefit nothing.”
Apart from the silence of Namibian government officials, Namibia’s business leaders have also maintained a heavy silence on the situation across the border.
“The happenings in South Africa should be a wake-up call to us in Namibia,” said Mr Shimhanda sha Kafindani, a small business operator based in the northern Namibian town of Oshakati.
“Especially the government and the big businesses, they must get the message that the people in South Africa are expressing their anger against a system that continues to benefit only some people while the vast majority are kept away from the economy.
“Such a situation is unsustainable. One day just something small can trigger wanton destruction of the economy, because the people have been benefiting nothing out of such an economy any way.
“Namibia is basically sitting on a gun-powder keg.”
Namibia is one of the countries of the world with a high income inequality. While the country is considered as an upper middle income country by the World Bank, more than half of the population live in extreme poverty.
In the photo: People looting a Shoprite store in South Africa yesterday.