The Bukalo Village Council (BVC) last week allocated 64 unserviced plots on a leasehold basis to a businessman who wants to construct houses for middle and high-income earners. This despite many members of the public having been overlooked regarding the allocation of property.
Bukalo, which is situated some 40 kilometres east of Katima Mulilo in the Zambezi Region, was recently proclaimed a town based on recommendations by the Fourth Delimitation Commission in 2013.
The massive land allocation that has raised eyebrows comes at a time when many Namibians continue to yearn for a piece of land on which they can build a home, in some cases without engaging middlemen.
Middlemen are partly to blame for the current housing crisis because they sell properties at exorbitantly high rates while raking in massive profits at the expense of land-hungry Namibians who have had enough of this profiteering.
This makes it difficult – if not impossible – for first-time house buyers, particularly in the lower income segments, to own a house.
The Bukalo council last week resolved to lease the plots to Esob Ahmed of Ela Construction, but what makes this agreement highly suspicious is the fact that many Bukalo residents have already been on the so-called waiting list for more than a year and the village council ducks and dives when approached to explain the delay.
Bukalo’s chief executive officer Martin Limbo during a brief telephone interview yesterday said the public “holds a misguided perception that the plots were sold to Ahmed”.
“He is leasing the plots, we never sold any plots since the proclamation in 2013. The plots are not yet transferred from the Deeds Office to the village council, so we cannot transfer anything. The lease agreement will be intact until such a time that the evaluation roll is released. All leaseholders will have the first option to buy. We have not issued any titles to anybody,” he said.
Allegations were flowing thick and fast the past few days from concerned residents that bribes were involved because there are people who have applied to receive land in Bukalo over a year ago, but they got no response from Limbo who is ever out of office and he rarely answers the phone given to him by council.
“The demand for land in Bukalo is extremely high. We are currently sitting with 1 800 applications for residential plots. There are also more than 60 commercial developers that want plots here,” Limbo lamely explained.
Although only 279 houses will be constructed in Bukalo under the mass housing programme, Limbo said the list of mass housing applicants has already surpassed the 450 mark.
Limbo said the presence of a traditional authority within the boundaries of the town also makes the planning process difficult for the council.
Limbo strenuously denied that he was bribed with cash and cattle to secure jobs for certain individuals.
“Those claiming that I was bribed for jobs are those who doubt my abilities. Firstly, I have no powers to appoint someone, that process must be done in consultation with the entire council, so how can I accept a bribe knowing that the council still needs to go through the process?” said a defensive Limbo.
He said the recruitment of staff for the village council has been completed and the successful candidates have started working already.
Some residents complained that the entire process was flawed. “The businessman was given the plots hastily on the same day he made a presentation to the Bukalo Village Council, fuelling speculation that kickbacks were involved. Normally it takes a few weeks or even months before approval is granted, as council needs to sit down and evaluate the application,” said one concerned resident. Commenting on allegations he was bribed with cattle, Limbo said: “I do not even own a kraal and I am not interested in owning cattle. I am a crop farmer. Those with proof that I was bribed must come and challenge me.”
“If I was dishing out positions I would have considered my relatives first because they also applied, but not one of them was employed. The CEO has no power to appoint anybody independently, it must be done in consultation with the council,” he said.