Unam students evicted over high rental fees

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Windhoek

The Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of Namibia (Unam) has expressed concern over the situation at Emona hostel where several students have been served with eviction notices, requiring them to leave the residence by Monday this week.

Emona Student Residence, which was built primarily to alleviate the shortage of student accommodation, terminated its lease agreement with more than five students this week. Hanganeni Emona Investments, the company that constructed the first private student quarters at Unam for N$80 million, has dismissed any possibility of reducing its rental fees, despite having a number of vacant rooms.

Over the years, Unam’s SRC has bemoaned the fact that Emona’s rental prices are not affordable to most students, many of whom can also not afford the high rental fees charged in and around Windhoek. Scarcity of accommodation on campus has therefore left many students at the mercy of landlords, who often charge exorbitant rental fees. The accommodation problem is particularly dire among students who live in Windhoek’s informal settlements.

In one of the eviction letters seen by New Era and signed on behalf of Hanganeni Emona Investments by portfolio manager Zuretta Damon, the students’ eviction is of immediate effect due to their apparent failure to settle rental payments in terms of Clause 20.1 of the lease agreement.

The letter indicates that the affected students should vacate the premises no later than August 10, 2015, and that the landlord reserves any and all rights to take further action. “Please be advised that the security deposit held by the landlord will be appropriated in respect of outstanding rental, restoration of the premises and commission to an independent broker,” the letter further states.

Not only have the evictions left private students stranded, but also affected Namibian Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) loan holders, who will only receive their refunds at the end of the academic year. Rental charges at the Emona hostel range between N$2 100 and N$2 300 per person sharing per month.

“If you stay at the new or old Unam hostels and you have an NSFAF loan, then Unam management always understands that you can pay at the end of the year with your refund once government pays out the loan, but it is different with Emona. They just evict you, even if they see the money reflected [in one’s account] which will be re-paid after all tuition fees are deducted by Unam,” one of the evictees complained.

“We have the money. It’s only that it will released at the end of the year. Emona must come up with strategies to allow us to stay and pay when our refunds become available. It’s very difficult for NSFAF recipients to survive at these private hostels,” they said.

Unam SRC president Vincent Shimutwikeni agrees that the rental fees are high and not student-friendly. He called on government to invest in building hostels and ensure that the public-private partnerships entered into to build student accommodation “are not exploitative to students.”

“We understand that Emona is not Unam and they can therefore run their accommodation as they please, but our plea is for Emona to consider the Namibian child, to consider those less fortunate who are granted an opportunity to study, yet are not so well-off and come from the regions.

“Our plea is also for Unam to come in and rescue our students, whether it’s by subsidy or any other form. The same manner in which they negotiated to have Emona build a hostel which will charge exorbitant fees, is the same manner they should re-negotiate on behalf of the students,” he opined.

Unam spokesperson, John Haufiku, however, said earlier this week that the university is not aware of any evictions, but promised to follow up on the matter with the Dean of Students. Although the exact number of students facing eviction could not be confirmed, New Era understands that more than five who were served with eviction letters this week have already left the hostel.

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