Shacks ‘offend’ Geingob… wants them gone in 5 years

OKERI NGUTJINAZO and NDANKI KAHIURIKAPRESIDENT Hage Geingob yesterday said the living conditions of informal settlements’ residents should be declared a national humanitarian crisis.

Data from the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia for 2018 state that 995 000 people are living in shacks in urban centres of the country.

The federation also said there are 308 informal settlements in urban areas, with about 228 000 shacks.

Geingob made these remarks yesterday during a meeting with the City of Windhoek mayor, chief executive, councillors and Khomas governor at State House, in view of one of the resolutions from the second land conference to address the situation in informal settlements.

He said the conditions are a disaster, and therefore should be addressed to get rid of these informal settlements.

“We have a crisis where human beings are staying in conditions that are unbearable. Some are even security officers who come and guard us in the luxury areas where we are staying. A person who would come from that condition, how will their mental state be? And they have guns also,” the president said.

He then dismissed claims that the meeting was being held because of the elections which are to take place towards the end of the year.

“We have the Harambee Prosperity Plan mapping out our five years, four years of what we will do, that is following in that context. Secondly, we had the second land conference, where we said we are meeting here because of the resolutions,” he said.

Geingob added: “Elections will come here, and we will face it. You know how we campaign. We will campaign and win. But that’s not an election, why do you want to strike people with elections?”

Windhoek mayor Muesee Kazapua said most people who stay in informal settlements come to the capital to look for greener pastures.

“People do not go from here [Windhoek] to Otjinene or Eenhana, but the influx is coming from those areas,” he stated.

The mayor said a strategy should be put in place to address the rapid urbanisation in informal settlements, and come up with strict measures to stop people from erecting shacks everywhere.

He further said some so-called elites own shacks, and have people who are occupying these shacks.

Kazapua advised that the municipality should have an audit to expose those well-off people who own a shack or property in informal settlements, and who should not be there.

“As much as we talk about accountability, transparency should also accompany it because there is no way people are allowed to unfairly survive at the expense of others, especially poor people. There should be measures and controls,” he stressed.

Major population movements to cities are shifting the burden of poverty to urban areas.

“The persistent problem is that attempts to tackle urban poverty directly by creating jobs and providing public services usually attract more rural poor, and their migration wipes out any gains made,” he explained.

He added that the majority of residents in informal settlements have poor access to potable water, which results in them using unhygienic water sources. The lack of sanitation facilities also resulted in many households resorting to using “flying toilets”, unauthorised pit latrines in their backyards, and makeshift showers with free-flowing wastewater.

Khomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua said the challenges informal settlements face are so overwhelming that it is difficult to manage the unhygienic situation as well as vandalism in those areas.

She echoed Kazapua’s sentiments regarding the well-off living or owning property in informal settlements.

“When you look at the make-up of the informal settlements, it is not mainly the poorest of the poor, but probably the majority of those are some of us,” she said.

McLeod-Katjirua added that the residents do not take care of whatever services the municipality provides them.

“The City of Windhoek needs some interventions, mainly from the central government,” she said.

On average, the monthly income of households in informal settlements in urban areas is N$1 500.

Besides, the total amount of money the households in informal settlements can afford per month is between N$375 and N$750 for rent and services.

Affirmative Repositioning movement leader Job Amupanda criticised Kazapua’s comments on doing a forensic audit of informal settlements.

He said Kazapua doubts that the poor exist and are the majority of residents in informal settlements.

“In his mind and that of his political party, there are well-off people who choose to live in informal settlements, without water and electricity, and using stones to clean their behind, just for fun,” he said.

Amupanda further stated that it is a joke to ask for a forensic audit to determine who stays in informal settlements when a competent body, the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA), has on numerous occasions indicated the challenges of informal settlements, and who reside there.

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