The ever-growing hunger for urban land has resulted in close to a 1 000 youths at Katima Mulilo grabbing land in the informal settlement of Macaravan East on the eastern periphery of the town.
The land invaders had even started clearing the land to erect shacks.
The Katima Mulilo Town Council had to hastily convene a meeting with residents of Macaravan East and those that flocked to the area for free plots on which they wanted to erect shacks and assured the land invaders that council was doing all it could to resolve the matter peacefully and advised them not to invade land illegally.
However, the meeting that took place on Sunday almost turned violent after the crowd, numbering over a 1 000, learned that only Mayor Charles Matengu was available to hear their plight.
According to sources, residents expected the full delegation of Matengu, chairperson of council management committee Salubila Maswahu and Katima Mulilo CEO Charles Nawa.
It is also understood Matengu was flooded with questions and he could not answer some of them satisfactorily, which further infuriated the already enraged crowd and police had to be called in to escort Matengu to his vehicle.
The land invaders refused to accept Matengu’s explanation that they would be given plots when an area earmarked for them, known as Extension No 7, between Chotto informal settlement and new NHE,
has been surveyed and serviced. They argued that when residents of Chotto were moved from the former informal settlement of Piggery, some years ago the former requirements were not applied.
Nearly 1 000 residents have in recent weeks cleared land between Macaravan East and Mahohoma informal settlement for possible occupation.
This is in addition to the 180 residents that already settled there before the land grabs and who are expected to give way to a local developer to build residential houses.
Matengu told this reporter that his mission at the Macaravan East meeting was merely to inform the residents who had already settled there that the land in question had been sold to a local developer, who is expected to build residential houses.
He said Extension 7 has been identified as a possible relocation area for those affected by the move and revealed plans to relocate the affected residents to that area before the end of the year. “People of Macaravan East will be shifted to Extension 7. The tender for roads and other services is already out. People should be patient,” noted Matengu.
Matengu further stated that the town council was aware of the plight of the residents and that inasmuch as people need land, they should exercise restraint, as efforts are being made to ensure that everyone has a decent roof over their heads. “All people need land. We should respect the rule of law. There are processes that need to be followed. People should not just grab land, we know their cries and we are trying to do something,” assured Matengu.
Matengu cautioned against “incitement from outside”. “We know there are some people inciting residents to grab land. This practice should stop. Some of the people inciting them already have plots in other areas. Some of the people who have grabbed land also have plots in other areas. Before the end of the year people of Macaravan East will be moving to Extension 7, including those at Wenela,” the mayor assured the residents.
He could not, however, say what action would be taken by the town council against those alleged to have grabbed land in Macaravan East.
A defiant youth, who is part of the people that have invaded Macaravan East, was however adamant that structures would be put up and questioned “how come other people have multiple plots and when we try to find a place for ourselves they say it’s illegal”.
The town council is inundated with countless applications for plots with many residents on a lengthy waiting list and losing hope of ever owning a piece of land.
Last year, the town council revealed that it was sitting with close to 300 undeveloped plots in fully serviced residential areas.
This situation, according to the town council, was exacerbating the housing backlog.
Some plots remain undeveloped for over 16 years despite the fact that some of the owners are high-profile individuals with the financial means to develop such plots.
Nawa, the CEO of Katima Mulilo, could not be reached for comment.
Although the exact number of residents on the waiting list is not known, Nawa admitted in an interview with this reporter last year that the number was soaring to a point that applications are literally flooding in on a daily basis.
The housing shortage has increasingly become a major socio-economic concern nationwide with property speculation becoming the norm and therefore pushing housing prices out of the reach of the majority of Namibians.
This has in turn unleashed a widespread outcry. This has also resulted in the mass action led by youth activist Job Amupanda, who launched his radical movement of Affirmative Repositioning last year that seeks to address the issue of urban land, especially among landless Namibian youth.