By Catherine Sasman
The primary healthcare clinic, Health 4 You, is at loggerheads with its landlord, the Wernhil Park property arm of Ohlthaver & List, Broll Namibia, over non-payment of rental fees.
Owners of the clinic, Annchen Parkhouse and Thers Marais, have received summonses to pay an amount of N$102 000 in accumulated debt.
They have refused to pay for certain items on their monthly bill, claiming that they are charged for services not rendered to them. They also complained that they are being overcharged.
The contested items are billed as “operational costs” and “merchant association” fees.
These, according to the Managing Director of Broll Namibia, Marco Wenk, are for services such as the maintenance and cleaning of common areas and the provision of security services. The merchant association fee, he said, is for advertising of the entire centre and not for individual establishments there.
“They do not maintain anything here, and we have to clean the pavement outside our clinic,” the nursing sisters charged.
The two – aged 67 and 69 respectively – “with a combined nursing experience of 100 years”, established the clinic at the shopping mall two years ago.
“It is heart-rending because they will evict us,” said Parkhouse.
The nursing sisters also claimed that they are being charged prime rental rates for the 105-square-metre premises they occupy.
“This is the slum alley of the centre,” said Parkhouse.
The centre borders the Wernhil taxi rank and an open market where 45 informal traders operate.
“The clinic is as clean as it can be with the mice and cockroaches and flies (purportedly emanating from the adjacent taxi rank) we have to contend with.
We have to fumigate our place every month and put out rat poison every evening otherwise we will get carried away,” she criticized.
“We were to be upgraded with the renovations at the centre. All the upgrading they have done was to knock out the old shopfront and put in a new one, which they have not yet finished. There are still holes where the rats can come through and the flooring is left unfinished, which is unacceptable.”
Wenk, however, strongly refuted these claims, and stressed that the clinic is not charged prime rental rates.
“Broll Namibia, and more specifically Wernhil Shopping Centre, offers a market-related rental package to tenants comprising both prime and non-prime positions within the centre,” Wenk indicated.
He also disputed Parkhouse’s claim that they are being overcharged for electricity and other services.
“Parkhouse was offered a lease at Wernhil, and she accepted it,” Wenk hit back. “Paying rent is not optional. Any tenant not paying rental as agreed will be up for eviction unless some agreement can be reached.”
He further commented that eviction of any of the centre’s tenants would be a last resort.
“We are not unreasonable people. We would be happy to sort this out,” he assured.
But Parkhouse was adamant that all small operators are disgruntled.
New Era spoke to some who expressed similar grievances.
Quick Curl is an African hair-do outfit also facing the taxi rank. The shop was broken into in the early hours a week ago.
“I do not get any security from the centre,” complained Quick Curl owner, Franasca Okafor.
“Security services are only offered to the shops inside the centre.”
Another shop-owner, preferring anonymity, commented: “My business suffered because of the renovations. It is slowly recovering, but business is simply not the same.”
She also claimed that shop-owners are forced to do renovations to their shops at own cost.
“There is no relationship with the management of the centre; this leaves a huge vacuum,” claimed Minette van Zyl, co-owner of the business and communication centre, Postnet. “We feel our concerns are not listened to.”
Again Wenk rebutted most claims, but acknowledged that the renovation period did put a strain on everyone concerned. He further stated that the break-in at Quick Curl was under investigation as the security company enlisted is supposed to have a permanent presence around the centre.
The Ohlthaver & List Group has made a huge investment of N$140 million in the upgrading of the shopping centre, and construction is anticipated to be completed by the end of July.
“Wernhil has been upgraded to an up-market shopping centre, which in terms will significantly and positively impact on the entire Windhoek CBD area,” Wenk noted.
“The upgrade and extensions of the Wernhil Park shopping centre, with each tenant’s responsibility to upgrade their own premises in line with the standard of the centre, have provided each tenant with an opportunity to significantly increase their respective turnovers.”
The City of Windhoek reacted with a flurry of activity after New Era approached it with the concerns of the Wernhil tenants who complained of generally unhygienic conditions at the taxi rank.
A delegation of the City that visited the area proclaimed it clean and tenable.
Despite all their grievances, the Wernhil tenants want to remain put: “We would like to clear up this matter with the management of Wernhil and Broll Namibia. We want to stay here and continue to bring services to the public streaming into the city every morning for work. Our clients’ feet are here,” said Parkhouse and Marais.