Land Deal Raises Eyebrows

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Despite formal objections from the Residents’ Association of Usakos against the sale of a historic piece of land in the town, the local authorities proceeded with the sale at a price next to nothing to an individual, action considered by the community organization as counterproductive to development. This land issue surfaced in documents that came into the possession of New Era. The Usakos Residents Association (URA) is opposed to the sale of erf 29 to a Jaco Smith and is accusing the town’s councillors of bribery that allegedly went with the transaction. The URA claims that the Usakos Municipality has already sold the erf for N$35 000 and a building to Banhoff Investment in 2005 during the tenure of the late CEO, but that the documents and advertisements have only been publicized now. The community organization alleges that: “The acting chief executive officer is busy covering up and lying to the Permanent Secretary by developing false receipts, while they are already aware that the deal has taken place last year. The municipality and councillors have developed partnerships with the company that purchased the land. Why is the municipality fooling around with the development of our town by lying? “We, the community as well as the residents’ association object to any transaction or sale of property of erf no. 29 to Banhoff Investment,” said the chairperson of the URA, Johannes Gaseb, in the letter to the municipality. What seems to be a predated letter of February 10, 2006 addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, the Council of the Municipality of Usakos sought permission to sell erf 29 by private treaty to a J.H. McDonald for the sum of N$35 000. “The purchase consideration is far less than the valuation, but the financial climate in Usakos, including the financial situation of the municipality, is such that the income derived from the sale would be most welcome. The council understands that the purchaser will utilize the premise for an old-age home and will spend approximately N$5 million on renovations of the property,” states the unsigned letter without any formal letterhead. The Permanent Secretary of the said ministry advised the Usakos Municipality to sell erven on public auction or tender to attract public interest and other possible buyers in a transparent way. “Valuation roll prices are meant for tax purposes and should not be used as selling prices. Land should be sold on a cost recovery basis in order to generate income for further development, which enable local authorities to become more sustainable. Council is hereby advised to first comply with the provisions of Section 63 of the Local Authorities Act as amended and to submit all relevant information to this office. A clearly motivated Council Resolution approving the said transaction, land use in terms of conditions of the title of Usakos, certificate from the CEO in terms of Section 93A of the Local Authorities Act should accompany your request. Kindly take note that the ministry in principle does not have any objection to the said transaction,” Permanent Secretary Erastus Negonga stated in his letter.