By Charles Tjatindi
The influx of people to Walvis Bay has resulted in a serious shortage of accommodation at the town.
Most people flock here in the hope of securing employment in the fishing industry, which is the single largest employer in the region. When such efforts fail however, residents struggle to make ends meet – least of all afford decent accommodation.
The situation has led to a mushrooming of shacks in suburbs like Kuisebmond and Tutaleni, as residents seek alternative accommodation.
Due to the problem of corrosion in this part of the country, most shacks here are built from wood, cardboard and plastic materials. The town council estimates the number of shacks in Walvis Bay to be between 5 000 and 6 000.
As most of these shacks are erected in the backyards of formal structures, residents often tap electricity from the main household by means of electric cables that hover above the premises. These illegal connections, most of which are short-circuited, have resulted in a number of fires.
Although residents are conscious of the dangers posed by the illegal connections, they feel they have no alternative.
“If you have nowhere to sleep at night in this cold town, it is a problem. Since you cannot afford to rent a room, it is better to gather enough materials and build your own shack,” noted Paulina Shivute, a resident of Tutaleni.
The creation of the Tutaleni village seemingly provided some temporary relief. Today however, Tutaleni is overcrowded and most shacks are haphazardly and poorly constructed. The shacks are vulnerable to fires, crime and the spread of tuberculosis.
In addition, a heavy burden is placed on the sewerage network, which has resulted in numerous disruptions and pipe bursts.
“This is not a new thing. There are shacks everywhere, even in the capital city. Why are people so concerned about this? Not all of us do bad electricity connections that lead to fire. I have been living in my shack for about four years and never had a fire incident. A fire can start anywhere, not only in shacks,” fumed Chris Damaseb, another resident of Tutaleni.
Currently, the construction of shack dwellings is illegal as they do not comply with prescribed municipal building and health regulations.
Attempts by the town council to educate residents on the dangers associated with such practices have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. It has been discovered that many house owners allow up to six shacks on their erf, thus aggravating the situation.
The Municipality of Walvis Bay embarked on providing low-cost housing to reduce the number of shacks, which has proved partially successful. Various fishing companies have also taken the initiative to build affordable houses for their employees. The town council is planning to create a second phase of Tutaleni.
Sadly, these and similar attempts by related housing providers such as the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), and the Build Together programme only scratch the surface of the growing demand for affordable housing. The mushrooming of shack dwellings is bound to continue unabated.