Time to Do Away with Shacks

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK While the housing situation remains acute in the country, there is no reason why people should continue to build sub-standard accommodation. This was said by the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Pandeni, last week. He called for an end to the erection of shacks for habitation by Namibians. Just like in other African countries, thatched huts remain the habitat for most people, especially those regarded as disadvantaged groups, in Namibia. According to Pandeni, the time has come for this pattern to be replaced with another technology, which is responsive to the modern needs and demands of a changing society. While this calls for a collective responsibility from all Namibians, the Government has always regarded housing as the priority sector for development especially that the housing sector in the country displays the most acute disparities between rural and urban areas and between population groups, with the poor having hardly an opportunity to own a house. The minister commended the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) for taking ownership and responsibility in the struggle for economic empowerment. SDFN is a network of saving schemes consisting of 393 groups countrywide with a membership of 15 100 low-income people who respond to their own housing needs. He assured that the Government would continue to work closely with organizations such as SDFN in mobilizing and creating awareness among the poor communities on issues of shelter, sanitation, education, health and income generating projects. Two years ago, the Government through the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development decided to give the current policy on housing an increased momentum by donating on a yearly basis one million Namibian dollars towards programmes aimed at building low-cost houses for the disadvantaged. Since the year 2000, about 355 houses have been constructed in Kavango only while 1 080 houses have been completed countrywide since the establishment of the federation in 1998. So far, the federation has received N$4 million since it came into being. The houses are constructed at N$15 000 each. Each member buys a savings scheme book that is used to save any amount that he or she can afford on a monthly basis. Apart from building houses, the federation is also involved in supporting pensioners and sick people with their saving groups. “They are busy to build the capacity of the less privileged in Namibia to manage money, they encourage regular payments and although this is not an easy task amongst the poor, I would like to encourage them to continue with this work,” Pandeni said. He advised that for development to sustain itself, all members of the federation should have the sense of responsibility to share the work of looking after resources. To show his support for this programme, the minister on behalf of his family pledged N$4 000 in support of the federation’s activities in Kavango. Meanwhile, the Kapako group last week officially inaugurated the open market for the people of that constituency. Early this year, SDFN presented its proposal to all its member groups for the construction of an open market that can be used to sell their products. The funds, which formed part of the annual million dollars government grant, were approved. The market was constructed at a value of N$20 390.53. Namibia still faces an acute shortage of housing. The housing problem is worsened by increasing urbanisation, inability of the homeless to acquire financing for houses on their own, as well as unwillingness by most private sector financial institutions to fund low-income housing.