The pressing unavailability of land in the country has compelled landless residents of Uupindi location in Oshakati to live among the dead at Omahenene graveyard.
The majority of the graveyard squatters, who include women and children, said the absence of a place to call their own is the main reason for illegally erecting shacks in the cemetery.
Apart from the already existing illegal structures in the graveyard, new structures appear every other day with squatters marking off areas to build their shacks.
While some have only lived in the graveyard for a few months, others have lived at the cemetery for at least four years.
Emeritha Nekongo who hails from Uuvidhiya Constituency said she moved to the area three years back when she relocated to Oshakati in search of a job.
But she now lives in the graveyard with three children, of whom two attend school in the vicinity.
Julia Shillenge moved to the graveyard four years ago after the passing of her parents.
“I moved here from Tsumeb after my parents died because I had no other place to stay – and I cannot afford rent either. I moved here [the area] to find a job to sustain myself,” said Shilenge.
While the search for a job tops the reasons for relocating to the graveyard, Martha Kambudu said she could not keep up with the fluctuating rental prices.
She has applied for a plot from council but currently stands at over 2 000 on the council’s list.
Kambudu owns a driving school in Oshakati.
Asked whether they do not fear living among the dead, many said they have no choice.
They now live filthily with no ablution facilities, however there are nearby water points where they collect water.
The chief executive officer (CEO) of Oshakati Town Werner Iita said he was not aware of the situation, but he promised to send building inspectors to investigate.
However, he said the norm would be to immediately dismantle such structures.
The mayor Katrina Shimbulu said her office is aware of the illegal erection of shacks around town.
“Illegal squatting is one of the concerns brought forward in every council meeting,” said Shimbulu.
But she said her office has to date not received information on the graveyard residents.
Shimbulu was equally perturbed that there are officials within the council who are “grabbing” land from the rightful owners.
She said such cases would be investigated and she urged those with information to come forward.
Shimbulu furthermore encouraged low-income earners to register themselves with the shack dwellers federation. She assured that land has already been availed to the federation to construct houses.
Meanwhile, council is expected to service about 3 000 erven in Okandjengedi once its budget is approved.
Shimbulu assured that council is committed to provide land and shall continue to do so to alleviate landlessness.
On the other hand government through its Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) has also committed to construct 20 000 new houses and service 26 000 residential plots countrywide.
The mass housing initiative intends to deliver at least 5 000 houses per annum countrywide during the HPP period.
Several others have been handed over since mass housing resumed in April.
Mass housing is expected to deliver 187 000 houses by the year 2030.