Grim Amnesty report attracts government attention

07 October 2021 | Health

Windhoek • [email protected]

Government say they are eager to study and apply the recommendations contained in a grim Amnesty International report detailing widespread human rights violations against Namibian San and the resulting surge of tuberculosis.
“The report comes at a time as interventions to combat tuberculosis in Namibia generally, and among the San in particular, are being intensified,” health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe said during at launch of the Amnesty report on Wednesday.
“[The report] will serve to contribute to the efforts being made in this area,” he assured panelists at the launch.
Nangombe stressed that ultimately “we are all aiming for the same goal. The improvement of the living standards and the health of the populations stated in the report.”
He said government will engage with Amnesty and share current interventions and programmes to address TB and multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) among marginalised communities. “As we engage with the report, as it goes to inform our interventions, we will definitely reach the targets and objectives we have set for ourselves.”
Human rights advocate Herbert Jauch said “the report can provide government with an important tool to systematically redress the inequalities that exist – provided that there is the political will to do so”.
He cautioned that “this will also entail making the necessary resources available instead of merely pushing the austerity agenda.”
The Amnesty report paints a grim picture of the high rate of TB and MDR-TB - 40% higher than the already steep national average - among Namibian San, and the multitude of human rights issues linked to those statistics.

“The most striking finding is that such terrible conditions exist 31 years after independence when some of these long-standing inequalities should have been addressed, at least to a significant extent,” Jauch said.
Frans Doeseb, a San from the Omaheke region, said a crucial step forward is to accept that San are not a historical and tourism curiosity or showpiece. “We are human beings, we have dignity. Our politicians talk about equality. But when we adopt equal treatment, we are still left behind.”
Amnesty regional researcher Mandipa Machacha said “at the heart of the report is human rights. TB is a human rights issue”.
She said the disease is “always a very good indication of where there is a lack of human rights. People who experience TB often experience human rights violations on a daily basis. People who are the most marginalised and discriminated against also have the highest chances of contracting it. It really is a disease of poverty and inequality.”
“This report situates the context of a group of people in southern Africa that continue to experience marginality, discrimination and absolute neglect by governments and others that have the power to direct resources,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International regional director, said.

A lead Amnesty researcher for the report, Muleya Mwananyanda, said her team’s work on the ground exposed them to the stark economic and social divide between the San and other populations within Namibia.
“The minute you get to Drimiopsis, a resettlement camp where the San people have been resettled, it is a completely different world. And the discrimination, as well as the under-resourcing in those areas, hits you. It’s a very, very difficult sight to see.”
She said the report shows “the lack of respect afforded to the San, by government in particular” who has not yet ratified international conventions on indigenous and tribal peoples rights to ensure constitutional and domestic protections. “That has pushed them further into a hole.”
Another critical issues is a lack of including San in relevant consultations on social and developmental programmes.
She said many San in Namibia live so remotely, and in such “inconceivable” living conditions that they are “almost a forgotten people. It shows you that TB is a disease of poverty.”