Town streets are not paved with goldBy: SELMA SHIPANGA
WINDHOEK has Babylon, Okahandja has Vyf Rand Kamp, and the copper town of Tsumeb has Kuvukiland – all informal settlements bursting at the seams with people in search of jobs and the hope of a better life.
Most live in shacks. There is no electricity, water is scarce and at Kuvukiland, there are not even toilets. Residents have to use the bush to relieve themselves.
Abject poverty and unemployment are the reality for the majority of these people.
Such is the tale of 42-year-old Maria Ananias, a resident of Tsumeb’s impoverished Kuvukiland informal settlement. Tears fill her eyes as she recounts the hardships she faces on a daily basis, especially after having one of her legs amputated last year. She uses crutches to move around.
She said the daily grind is often so difficult for her that thoughts of committing suicide often cross her mind.
Before her right leg was amputated because of an infection in her foot, Ananias was a temporary worker for the Tsumeb municipality.
She says since her amputation, going to the bush to relieve herself is especially challenging.
“Back then I was physically strong and I could do things for myself. Now even going to the bush to relieve myself is a problem because I only have one leg. Sometimes I fall over and I end up being covered in my own faeces. Those who have toilets often lock their toilets, which means we have to use the bush,” she said.
The ramshackle, dusty and rocky Kuvukiland has about 3 500 shacks and a population of more than 5 000.
Mayor Ndangi Sheetekela says it is as a result of rural-to-urban migration that informal settlements such Kuvukiland have sprung up.
“Some of them came from neighbouring towns even. The Kuvukiland area belongs to Weatherly mine and only about 350 shack owners were given permission to settle on the land back in 2009. The rest are settled there illegally but we are in negotiations with the Weatherly mine to allow those people to settle there,” said Sheetekela.
The town of Tsumeb has about 22 000 residents.
Sheetekela told The Namibian that the town urgently needs land as more and more people flock to the copper town in search of jobs and a better life.
Recent media reports show that Tsumeb is not the only town facing a scarcity of land. Just last month, the Windhoek City Police demolished shacks set up illegally in the Goreangab Dam area of the Samora Machel constituency in Windhoek.
Also in the same month, it was reported that 100 land grabbers at Keetmanshoop occupying municipal plots behind the Tseiblaagte residential area were ordered to vacate the land.
Hundreds of people illegally occupying town land at Mariental were served with eviction notices in the same month.
Ananias, a mother of four, makes a living by selling small items such as sweets and chips on the dusty streets of Kuvukiland. “Life is really hard,” she said.
Sheetekela said the municipality is looking at bringing development to the informal settlement, but first has to get permission from the mine, which owns the land.
Namibia’s unemployment rate is put at more than 50 per cent and according to the website indexmundi.com, the percentage of Namibia’s population who lives below the poverty line was 55,8 per cent last year.