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WHYS goes to Namibia

Martin Vennard | 18:25 UK time, Monday, 17 September 2007

Ros and I are lucky enough to be taking WHYS to Namibia this week. We will be broadcasting the programme on Friday 21st September from the Next Step Conference in the capital, Windhoek.

The conference aims to highlight the value of educating and developing young people through sport, and on using sport in areas such as gender equality, the empowerment of women, and combating HIV/Aids.

Starring cast

Sports stars, including the former Namibian sprinter and world champion Frankie Fredericks, and Olympic gold medalists Ed Moses and Kelly Holmes will be taking part.

From the world of football, the UEFA president, Michel Platini, and the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, are also due to take part.

Ministers from Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Mozambique and Britain are also expected to attend, while representatives from bodies such as the International Olympics Committee and The United Nations Children's agency, UNICEF, will also be there.

We will be working with the Namibian national broadcaster, NBC, and one of its presenters, Wesley Fries, will be co-hosting the show with Ros. Delegates from the conference will participate in the show, and if you are Namibia you are welcome to come and join us at the Safari Hotels. We will be on air from 1900 to 2100 local time.

Chris's Namibia

A regular World Have Your Say listener, Chris, who has lived in Namibia for many years, has already said she will be coming to join us and has been kind enough to tell us something about her adopted country:

"Namibia is an enormous country with a tiny population. To give you an idea, it's roughly four times the size of England, Scotland and Wales, and has less than two million people. It does in fact take quite a bit of imagination to realise what this means. Eventually you may come to the conclusion that there are wide open spaces, which there are, but they're much bigger than most of you will ever have experienced.

The majority of people live either in the north of the country, or in the handful of towns. Otherwise, there are vast tracts of land with perhaps one or two dwellings dotted here and there - sometimes. This means that delivering services, such as health care, schools, etc, to rural people poses a rather large problem because of the distances which sometimes have to be travelled.

Independence

Namibia used to be called South West Africa, and was once colonised by the Germans, then after the Second World War Britain took it over, and handed it to South Africa to be administered from there. Independence was gained in 1990 - an easy date to remember.

I first came to Namibia - or SWA as it was then - in 1984, well before independence. My husband had been offered a job at the copper mine in Tsumeb. On arrival there, we were horrified to discover that there were no boarding kennels for dogs within several hundred kilometres. As we had four dogs at the time, this was quite a problem. When someone suggested that we should start up an SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) ourselves, that's just what we did. And we ran it on a volunteer basis for 14 years.

There was no vet in Tsumeb at that time, the nearest before independence being at an army base in Otavi, 60km away. After independence these South African Army vets left the country, and then I had to drive to Otjiwarongo, 180km away. Another instance of the problems of living in such a vast country with a small population.

Mineral wealth

Tsumeb is - or was - well known throughout the world for its diversity of minerals. There have been minerals discovered there which don't occur anywhere else in the world. However, the mine in Tsumeb was mainly mining copper, which it had been doing for many, many years. The mine closed down in 1998, but re-opened under new management two or three years later.

Meantime, without any means of income, my husband and I had to leave Tsumeb. We first went to Gobabeb in the Namib Desert. This is a research station run by the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia - DRFN. Their main concern is desertification, but they also accommodate scientists in lots of other disciplines. DRFN also takes on a few school leavers each year into their organisation giving them a good grounding in all kinds of conservation.

Real Africa

In 2001 we moved to Windhoek, the capital city, a town of about 300,000 people. In some terms, that's a small town these days. However, despite the tiny population, and vast distances, Namibia has excellent roads. In fact, many tourists say that this isn't "real Africa". Quite what "real Africa" is, I'm not sure. Possibly they're looking for mud huts and lions walking down the streets!

Namibia has been politically quite stable since independence, although there are mutterings recently about the possibility of SWAPO (the ruling party) wanting to bring Sam Nujoma back as president in 2009. Many people don't think this would be a good idea.

Aids and rape

As in many African countries, AIDS is a big problem, and there has been a huge campaign to make people aware of the dangers. Rape is also a huge problem. Some people think that there's a belief that sex with a virgin will cure - or prevent - AIDS, and it is thought that this is the reason that extremely young children have been raped. I know of a child of six months who was raped some years ago.

There is also an impression amongst some people that the government is not spending its money as wisely as it could. For instance an enormous amount of money is being spent on building a Presidential Village, while the hospitals are falling apart, the police force is under-funded, and schools are without equipment. The government is redistributing land, and so far they've tried to do it in such a way that it won't cause any economic problems.

Despite the problems, Namibia is in the main a very stable, and content country. On the whole people here are extremely polite and friendly, and tourists are coming here in droves."

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