ONGWEDIVA – Tension is brewing amongst residents of the mining town of Tsumeb in the Oshikoto region, which was sparked by a housing shortage and a scramble for available accomodation.
While the town’s population has shot up immensely due to its thriving economy, the local housing crisis was allegedly worsened after Dundee Precious Metal Smelter, a subsidiary of Weatherly Mining, urged residents to rent out their properties to over 600 expatriates that would be contracted at the company’s sulphuric acid plant. Homeowners saw this as an opportunity to cash in on the accommodation need by raising rent ridiculously, leaving many tenants in the cold at short notice and causing much consternation among residents in general.
Residents complain they are being forced to vacate houses and are left with nowhere else to go as there is just no housing available. Residents are pointing fingers at Weatherly Mining and its subsidiary Dundee Precious Metal Smelter. The two companies are accused of using their power and money after they requested people to rent out their homes to the mine to house the more than 2 000 outsiders employed by the mine for which the mine is allegedly willing to fork out between N$10 000 and N$20 000 rent per month depending on the condition of the house.
This has left those who cannot afford such high rent homeless as home owners would naturally go for more money meaning they would rather rent their homes to the mine.
“People are told at short notice to vacate the premises so that they can be availed to the mine employees. They don’t know what to do, some are considering encroaching on the nearby farms to set up shacks,” said one resident on condition of anonymity.
However Dundee Precious Metal Smelter’s spokesman Jim Kastelic said although it was initially decided to rent accommodation from residents who were willing to lease their houses, the company decided against it after realising that the community was not happy with the plan and that homeowners were drastically increasing the rent.
“Yes, we are working a big project at the sulphuric plant and we made an offer to members of the community who wished to rent out their homes temporarily to come forth and register their apartments or houses with us, but there were no promises made or guarantees. Recently the company heard about the unpleasant situation amongst community members over this accommodation issue and we decided to look at other options. We have thus decided to accommodate our first group of experts at the contractors camp, which we intend to extend to fully accommodate all our employees,” stated Kastelic.
The Municipality of Tsumeb also raised concern over the shortage of housing being experienced at Tsumeb.
Lemmy Geingob who is the economic development officer at the Municipality of Tsumeb confirmed the housing challenge, which he attributes to the influx of job seekers who come into Tsumeb from neighbouring towns such as Otavi, Grootfontein and the north.
Geingob said the population of the town has risen from 17 000 to 37 000 over the past year.
“The economy of the town is currently thriving. The council has diversified the town’s economy and a lot of people are now interested in Tsumeb for business. Many investors have already set up businesses in Tsumeb and this has caused people to realise that business at the town is booming as they see construction works in progress when passing through the town, while others have been told to come to the town to seek employment by family members who are already settled here,” he said.
However with all the economic activities taking place the municipality has no land for housing development as much of the land belongs to Weatherly Mining.
Geingob confirmed most of the land at the town belongs to the mine but said the council is negotiating for the mine to release and avail some of the land to the town council.
“Everything is already processed and the council and mine have reached an agreement, it is just a matter of paper work,” elaborated Geingob.
By Kakunawe Shinana