NHE’s mass housing mandate revoked

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Windhoek

Staff members of the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) reported to work on Wednesday morning, only to be informed that government has revoked the company’s mandate to implement the ambitious multi-billion dollar mass housing project.

Inside sources said NHE Acting CEO, Uazuva Kaumbi informed the parastatal’s staff about the latest developments at a special staff meeting yesterday.

When contacted for comment Kaumbi was not eager to discuss the matter. “These are internal matters and I am not at liberty to divulge more information on this,” he said.

The mass housing project ostensibly aimed to deliver 185,000 houses by 2030. It is not clear how the latest decision will impact building contractors who were awarded tenders to construct the houses, nor what will happen to the houses still under construction.

Several contractors claim they are owed money by the NHE for houses they have already completed.

Eric Libongani, the NHE spokesperson, declined to comment on the future of the mass housing scheme yesterday. The issue is being dealt with at the highest levels of government, he said.

Well-placed sources within NHE, who spoke to New Era, said the announcement was widely expected, adding that it was just a matter of time before the decision was officially relayed to them.

These staff members also expressed concern about contractors involved in the project, who have legally binding agreements with the NHE. Many of these contractors claimed they had used their own capital to fund construction activities under the mass housing scheme.

Reliable sources have indicated that central government is currently negotiating with the affected contractors to decide on the best way forward.

The Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sophia Shaningwa, instructed the NHE in May to stop any further construction being carried out through the mass housing programme.

New Era understands that the decision to withdraw the implementation of the N$45 billion project from the NHE was taken by Cabinet on July 21.

Shaningwa had tabled an updated report to Cabinet last week, where she reportedly said she would inform Cabinet once her office has received a legal opinion from the Attorney General, as well as the assessment report by the team of quantity surveyors appointed by the Ministry of Works and Transport.

All related contracts and reference documentation of agreements that NHE entered into with construction companies were due to submitted to the Attorney General’s Office by Friday. Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Simataa said last Friday that “the Attorney General was instructed to analyse the validity of the contracts entered into and to provide an opinion on the legal and potential financial implications, as well as any claims that may arise from any change that may be found necessary to put the programme in the right direction.”

Simataa said Cabinet also “directed the Minister of Works and Transport to expedite the finalisation of the assessment by a team of quantity surveyors and for their report to be submitted in the short possible time, earlier but not later than end of July.”

The mass housing project was commissioned towards the end of 2013, but failed to make a dent in the housing backlog after only 1,468 houses out of the planned 10,000 units were completed during the first phase.

Earlier this week New Era reported that out of the 1,468 constructed houses, more than half (797) have still not been connected to municipal services, such as water, sewage and electricity.

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