Red Tape Delays Housing Project

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK – Otjomuise’s extensions 6 and 7 remain ‘ghost towns’ almost two years after the municipality finished servicing plots, but with no signs of life or human habitation in the two sub-divisions. This is happening at a time when according to the municipality, at least 1 500 low-income earners, including many from the overcrowded Okahandja road and Babylon squatter camps, are desperately waiting to be relocated. Construction of serviced plots at Otjomuise extensions 6 and 7 started 5 January, 2004 with work on the physical infrastructure being completed in October 2004. The two extensions were planned to provide for block erven with communal services specifically aimed at low-income earners orga-nised into self-help groups, or individual low-income earners. Two years after completion of construction however, extensions 6 and 7 are still bogged down in a quagmire of bureaucratic red tape and indecisiveness. Spokesman for the City of Windhoek, Ndangi Katoma, yesterday said plots in the two areas would only be allocated once all statutory town-planning procedures are completed. Katoma blamed the ini-tial delay in allocating plots on so-called “alignment changes” the city transportation department asked for in order to be able to provide for both present and future transportation needs. The other reason for the delay was that the city was now awaiting approval from the Township Board, which falls under the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development. “The delay in allocating plots may be long, but when you work within procedures that are sometimes not under your control, what can you do? The Township Board has its own schedule of meetings,” Katoma shrugged. National Facilitator for the Shack Dwellers Federation (SDF), Edith Mbanga, threw the figure of 1 500 people given by the City of Wind-hoek into doubt, saying her organisation has a waiting list of at least 3 000 people eager for plots. Some of their members joined savings groups as early as 2001-2002 and several years later were still waiting. “We encourage them to be patient, but some just give up and ask for their money back.” Mbanga said there was little the SDF could do since they always had to wait for the Windhoek municipality to allocate a block of erven they could then distribute to their members. The SDF further faced the problem that their members could often not afford plots serviced by the municipality, and therefore preferred being allocated unserviced blocks they could then provide services for themselves. The SDF could provide services for plots far cheaper than the municipality because they relied on voluntary labour provided by their members, meaning members only paid for the cost of materials. City Spokesman Katoma said the Otjomuise extensions were originally developed as a “greenfield pro-ject” to relieve pressure on the shantytowns mushrooming around the City. Otjomuise consists of 13 separate extensions, of which extensions 1 and 2 are already fully settled, while people are now in the pro-cess of occupying extensions 8 and 9. The city is currently negotiating with the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) to develop extensions 3 to 5. The block erven provided by the municipality consist of shared communal toilets and water points as most of the intended beneficiaries are unable to afford their own water points.