Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula has blamed greed and poor implementation strategies as principal reasons for the interruption of government’s ambitious N$45 billion mass housing project.
Since the suspension of the project in May by Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa stakeholders have directed blame at each other for the failure of the project to take off emphatically.
The National Housing Enterprise (NHE) has strongly defended its conduct in the project, but government representatives have often insinuated that the company has been a key source of the problems that bedevilled the mass housing project since inception.
Angula, speaking from the comfort of his home in one of Windhoek’s affluent suburbs – where he is enjoying his retirement since March – believes greed, in particular, brought the programme to its knees.
He likened mass housing to the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (Tipeeg), a development project that was fathered during Angula’s time as prime minister, but which he often showed little confidence in.
Ha argued in 2014 that although Tipeeg was devised to address unemployment in the country, there was an inherent risk that those winning Tipeeg projects would devise ways to ensure they use as few people as possible to save on wage costs.
He specifically said that some capitalists involved in Tipeeg projects would use machines, instead of people to complete the work and thereby save money they would otherwise have pumped into salaries.
About N$14.5 billion was committed to Tipeeg when it was launched during the 2011/12 financial year. It aimed to create 104 000 jobs, but during its three-year duration, Tipeeg only created 15 829 permanent jobs, the budget speech delivered last year by then finance minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila revealed. Overall, 83 000 jobs were created under Tipeeg, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila – now the country’s prime minister – estimated at the time.
“I tried when I was the prime minister to impress upon the director general of the National Planning Commission [Tom Alweendo] that if you want to deal with unemployment, start with training,” Angula told New Era yesterday.
“Give them skills and perhaps some small loans so that they can start their businesses, or introduce a youth employment scheme and encourage the private sector to employ the youth. Unfortunately, my good friend did not heed what I was saying and the programme was carried out as it was carried out. I’m not quite sure about its impact.”
Mass housing, launched in November 2013, aims to see 185 000 houses built by 2030. What is clear though, Angula argued, is that former president Hifikepunye Pohamba had good intentions when he introduced both the mass housing and Tipeeg projects. “Good intentions can end up not producing good results. This is what happened to these two programmes,” he said.
Minister Shaningwa, who on May 27 ordered the temporary suspension of the mass housing project, cited lack of funds as the reason for suspending the project. At the time, no less than N$2 billion was needed to complete at least 10 000 houses. Initial projections are that a total of N$2.7 billion would be required to complete the first phase of the 17-year housing project.
Angula yesterday said: “Mass housing was just a good intention, again hijacked by greedy people, who started demanding unreasonable fees for what they were doing, thereby inflating the cost of mass housing. The intentions were good. Nobody should question that, but the implementation became a problem. So these programmes are casualties of implementation strategies that were perhaps not thought out properly.”
Angula made the remarks during an interview, to be published in tomorrow’s edition, in which he discussed his retirement, his views on the new government and the expulsion of four Swapo youth league members from the ruling party.