MARIENTAL – About 300 squatters of the Ombili shantytown at Mariental have vowed to remain on the land even if ‘force’ is used to try and remove them from land they are occupying illegally.
Growing in number on almost a daily basis, the illegal settlers have been squatting on the land for over a month.
“The municipality wanted to remove us on Friday,” said one of the residents, Marlene Maasdorp, adding that they were waiting for bulldozers to arrive. She said she has no intention of moving even if the bulldozers are sent to to come and destroy her shack.
The new informal settlement is situated adjacent to an older one, also called Ombili, where thousands of squatters have been living for years. Maasdorp explained that because there are no toilets at the settlement, thousands of people use the river bed as a lavatory.
“It is very dangerous for women, especially at night,” she admitted, adding that the stench is unbearable as are the obviously unsanitary conditions of living next to an area where human excreta litter the riverbed.
“Our leaders want us to vote, but we do not even have toilets,” complained Maasdorp.
New Era spotted a number of children using the dumpsite to relieve themselves in broad daylight and in full view of onlookers since the settlement lacks any ablution facilities.
There is also no water available for residents.
Another resident, Dirk van Niekerk, elaborated that neighbours take advantage of the settlement’s lack of water by charging them up to N$100 to use the natural resource.
“I lived in the backyard of someone else for many years, I finally have my own land,” said Van Niekerk. He was relieved that he could extend his shack and that his children can play freely in their own yard.
“I will not move from this land. I am a Mariental-born resident without land,” he vowed defiantly.
Van Niekerk says none of the town’s leaders have ever come to their rescue.
“We have nowhere to go and we decided to put up homes on this dumpsite,” added Maasdorp. She claims the dumpsite has not been cleared for over two years. “We decided to clean it outselves to put up our homes,” she added.
“We will not move untill they give us land.” The squatters were unsure about whose land it is that they are occupying. Some said the land belongs to a white farmer who lives in Windhoek, while others said it belongs to Nampower or the Mariental Municipality.
“How did a white farmer get hold of this land on a dumpsite?” asked Maasdorp. “The farmer has not been using it for over five years, why can’t we live here?” she insisted.
Approached for comment, the Acting CEO of the Mariental Municipality, Catherine Boois, confirmed that a resolution to have residents evicted was handed over to the council’s laywers. However, she could not say on which date exactly the evictions would commence.
Boois explained that some pockets of land belong to the municipality, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and a certain Mrs De Klerk.
She could however not say how De Klerk obtained the land, adding that she could have owned the land for years before Boois started working at the council.
Boois declined to comment on the defiant declarations of the squatters that they will not budge an inch from the land they are occupying.