By Reagan Malumo
The Government has urged regional and local authorities in the country to double their efforts in the transformation of the lives of Namibians living in abject poverty.
And according to the Minister of Regional, Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Pandeni, the Government will do whatever it can to exert pressure on local authorities to provide affordable services such as water, electricity and sewage removal.
Pandeni made the remarks during a handover ceremony of 34 houses and a community centre to members of the Zambezi Savings Scheme, a branch of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia at Katima Mulilo.
The houses were constructed out of a one million dollar annual government contribution to the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia. Holcim Namibia donated 1640 bags of cement and an amount of N$200 000 towards the construction of two houses and a shack dwellers’ centre at the town.
According to Pandeni, soon after independence, the Government decided to make housing one of its priorities and created enabling policies that encourage and allow greater participation by citizens to address the lack of shelter.
“The future of our country is in the hands of the people, for it is they that will be soldiers in our modern struggle for economic independence in keeping with the 2004 SWAPO Party Election Manifesto, the National Development Plans and Vision 2030,”stressed Pandeni.
According to him, this is based on the belief that housing or shelter is a basic need for human existence just as food and water, and that denying people access to shelter is at par with the violation of human rights.
Pandeni said that housing displayed the most acute disparities between the rural and urban areas and between population groups, with the poor finding it difficult to own a house.
Hence the Government has pledged to work closely with the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia to embark on housing programmes that are more receptive to the needs of people in terms of affordability and accessibility.
“We will also continue to mobilize resources, with special emphasis on low-cost housing in rural, towns, villages and settlements,” said Pandeni, further stating the Government advocates the view that provision of plots will also be one of the programmes aimed at increasing access to housing in towns, villages and settlements through decentralization.
The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia is a network of housing savings schemes that aims at improving the lives of low-income groups that live in shacks and rented rooms, and those without accommodation.
The network comprises 21 347 members, mainly women, pensioners, people with disability and the sick, and has constructed 1 350 houses nationwide.
According to the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia National Coordinator Edith Mbanga, apart from membership contributions, the beneficiaries of houses pledged labour and that all costs of the building materials would come from the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia.
She said the network has trained five women as skilled builders and that apart from the 34 houses which have been inaugurated, the network is constructing another phase of 44 houses under the Zambezi Savings Scheme.
Five other houses for pensioners have already been opened in the Karas Region and the network is yet to hand over other houses in the Oshikoto Region before the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Pandeni bemoaned the fact that men in the country failed to provide shelter to their families, but left the entire task to women.
He said according to African culture, the provision of houses is the responsibility of men and thus he appealed to men to stop focusing on putting up cuca shops but rather to build houses for their families.