CEO of Katima Mulilo Town Council Charles Nawa tells freelance reporter George Sanzila about issues of administration as well as availability of urban land at the town.
New Era (NE): There’s a growing hunger for urban land in Katima Mulilo, with about 1000 youth grabbing land recently. What are you doing to resolve this emotive issue?
Charles Nawa (CN): That for me is an indication that Katima is a developing town. If I see people demanding land as a CEO it’s a sign that Katima is not a ghost town. The delay on the part of town council is not of our own making. The delay is a result of following procedure and laws that are governing us in terms of delivery of land. But as a town we are doing our utmost best. There is a big difference between Katima of today and two years back.
NE: Youths are frustrated by the pace of delivering land. Under normal circumstances how long should it take for someone to get a residential plot?
CN: It is good you are saying youths. We cannot provide the youths with plots if we still have elderly people, our parents still on the waiting list. Our mandate is to give land to every Namibian whenever it is available. The land that was available was allocated to people that applied. We advice the youth to apply as well. When your time comes to get a plot then you will get it. It does not mean that if you’re a youth then you get a plot automatically, no. We have a database that we work with. We made a call here for people to register themselves. We have almost 1 300 people who registered for plots from last year. From last year up to now, less than 200 plots that were available were allocated to people. When you apply today it does not mean that tomorrow you will receive your plot. You have to wait. It’s not only Katima Mulilo but Namibia as a whole. You have to wait for at least two to three years. We still have other stakeholders involved in the process of allocating land and the issue of availability of serviced land. When you talk of servicing you talk about planning, surveying and putting services such as roads, water, sewer and electricity. That’s when council can start allocating land.
NE: Could you please shed light on recent land grabbing in Macaravan East. It is rumoured that that the area was sold to a local developer.
CN: Firstly, we condemn that act by the youth to grab land because that does not show respect for the rule of law in the country. We did not sell the land. We got into a private public partnership (PPP) with that developer to put up services. When we talk of services here we talk of money. We want to put roads but where can we get money from? That’s why our government encourages local authorities to enter into partnerships with the private sector that has money. We made sure of this so that at the end of the day we have serviced land and houses that will still be available to residents. The developer has not even started doing anything on that land. We expect him to have finished doing the work by 2018.
CN: That is the question that we also have because 99% of those people are unemployed. And we have also realised that most of them do not stay in Katima Mulilo. So the issue of affordability is the question we throw back to them.
NE: An eviction order has been given to Macaravan East residents; have you found them an alternative location?
CN: The law does not provide for that. When someone stays in a place illegally we are not required or bound by law to find an alternative settlement for them. The eviction is still in effect.
NE: How about the residents who have been staying there for years, even before the recent land grabs?
CN: Well, when we talk about Macaravan East we must differentiate things. We have made arrangements already with people in Macaravan East. We have had many meetings. We even have their list. The problem we have is people coming from somewhere else that have started grabbing land. I was even in a meeting where the committee of Macaravan East nearly got into a fight with those people grabbing land. This issue must not be mixed, the Macaravan East residents have already been shown where they are supposed to go and we are still putting some roads. If you go further in Mahohoma you’ll see the roads we are building there.
NE: What about the hundreds of youths that have invaded Macaravan East and have vowed to stay put despite your calls for them to leave the area, what is council’s next step?
CN: We advised them through the highest office in the region, which is the office of the governor, for them to vacate the area. Secondly, we are in consultation with our lawyers and we are just monitoring the situation on the ground. If there are people still insisting to stay in that area definitely a court order will be issued.
NE: But are there still some youths clearing land right now?
CN: At the moment there’s no movement there. We deployed our people to monitor the situation on the ground. The situation is under control.
NE: You’re often accused of selling land to foreigners, particularly business plots…
CN: That allegation does not hold water. I have even challenged people saying this to bring a list of those foreigners. It is easy to say foreigners but can you prove it? Who are those foreigners? And again, in Namibia we have to be very careful when we talk about foreigners. We don’t want what happened in South Africa to be replicated here. If we start chasing foreigners what will it help? Foreigners are helping us economically. They run businesses that give jobs to the locals. I want to advice our youths to desist from such tendencies of hating on foreigners. Our government has entered into partnerships with these foreigners. We got our independence with the support of the international community. We even have our people in Botswana but they are never called names.
NE: Council officials have also been accused of allocating land to themselves and their cronies and relatives…
CN: When you’re serving the nation, those are accusations that you must expect. Working for town council does not mean that I am no longer a Namibian. I have rights just like any other Namibian. I also deserve to have a plot just like any one. I cannot serve the nation while I do not have a plot, where do you expect me and my family to live? Do you want me to live under a tree? We still have a lot of people working for this town council but they don’t have plots up to now. We have staff members that are still renting. And what if this is one of our benefits as staff of town council. When you go to other institutions they have benefits.
NE: Can you respond to allegations that you and other council officials own multiple land plots?
CN: I want people to come and show me that multiple lands they talk about. I started working here in 2009. I was also renting until 2013 when town council provided me with a business plot. So which multiple plots are they talking about? Yes I bought a house from NHE. If I bought a house with NHE and council provided me with a business plot, is that wrong? And for your information my name was cleared by an Anti-Corruption Commission investigation. We were vindicated, our names are clear. Why didn’t they arrest us then?
NE: There was also a revelation recently that the regional governor too has been struggling to get a plot in Katima. What is council doing about this issue?
CN: That issue was cleared. The governor followed procedures. He applied and as we are speaking now we received his application. He was provisionally given a plot on the banks of the Zambezi River. Unfortunately, the plot was too big and needed a demarcation. That is what is stalling the process right now. He is patiently waiting for that and did not just go and grab it because he is the governor, no.
NE: You recently hinted that the recent land grabbing in Katima may have been instigated by Affirmative Repositioning movement. Do you still hold the same sentiments?
CN: Well, I may look at that in two ways. According to the deadline of Affirmative Repositioning, they gave us 31 July but those people have resorted to grabbing land now before the deadline. So I really don’t know whether they instigated anyone. What I see rather is that this issue is tribally based. The majority of these people are using the issue of land as a scapegoat. This is being done because the CEO of the town and the majority of councilors are all from a certain tribe. This whole issue is tribal.
NE: Have those that submitted their applications for land under the Affirmative Repositioning been responded to and what would be your strategy come 31 July?
CN: Someone must advise the youth of this region. We provided them the space from which they should submit their applications during that time. At the end of the day they left with their applications and list. We did not receive that list like other towns did.
NE: So you never received the applications through Affirmative Repositioning?
CN: I didn’t. Even when that 31 July comes, who are they going to ask? I was supposed to receive that list so that I could have handed it over to my councillors to see what we can do.