By Frederick Philander
The City of Windhoek has been publicly accused of wilfully allowing the present conditions of squalour at the informal settlement of Okahandja Park to continue, despite appeals to improve the deteriorating situation.
The accusation was made by the leader of the Republican Party, Henk Mudge, after an in loco inspection of the settlement at the invitation of residents last week.
“People living in this informal settlement are decent, hard working and deserve better social and living conditions. Granted, we have experienced an influx of people to this particular informal settlement since the dawn of independence, but that does not mean that they have to live perpetually in such squalour. They deserve better,” said Mudge during a press conference at one of the self-built homes.
Mudge accused the Windhoek City Council of mismanagement with regard to the running of the settlement.
“If the City of Windhoek is incapable of managing the area, then I am afraid the Central Government needs to take over as a matter of urgency. There are no street lights, proper sewerage, streets and water supplies and these people live in perpetually appalling conditions. Their lives are in constant danger and even the Namibian Police are afraid of entering the settlement out of fear,” he charged. He says the residents are making a positive contribution to the economy of the capital.
“There exists no proper sanitary systems, making the settlement vulnerable to diseases such as cholera. That we cannot allow to happen. And to prevent it, it is imperative that the Central Government provides the necessary resources to provide better community services, something the inhabitants deserve,” he said.
Mudge warned the Government that instead of showing overseas visitors the more established suburbs of greater Katutura, it should also show them the squalid conditions the residents of Okahandja Park live in.
“Due to the absence of proper latrines and toilets in the settlement, women and children have to make use of the bush and the surrounding area, at high risk of being assaulted, raped and/or even killed especially at night. We live in constant fear. We already asked and protested in favour of more street lights in the area four years ago, but to no avail,” said Janetta Hengari at the same press conference on behalf of the residents.
Hengari complained that the residents do have houses, but that there is a lack of amenities and public facilities, which make their lives miserable.
“There is only one school in the settlement. The rest of our children have to attend far-off schools, creating many other problems for parents. At the same time, the authorities encourage us to fight illnesses such as polio, but through neglect of the settlement, they (the authorities) bring these diseases to us, especially due to the fact that the available zinc toilets are seldom emptied,” she complained.
She demanded tarred streets and more schools and clinics.
“Not even doctors and nurses want to work in the settlement due to the dangers we face here every day. We cannot afford to pay expensive ambulance fees to have sick and elderly people transported to hospitals and clinics elsewhere in the city,” she said.