In a large country like Namibia, Windhoek, the capital city is becoming much smaller and smaller every day for its residents.
Either we admit we do not have the requisite city planners, administrators, capable leadership and the necessary financial muscles or we risk becoming a highly congested and crime-infested city with no one to blame or to hold accountable at the end of the day.
For whatever reason, it seems we are content with the current situation although deep inside we know that we can do much better or deserve much better.
There are a number of factors, which are known to have contributed (and continue to contribute) to the precarious situation the City of Windhoek currently finds itself in but with adequate planning and an aggressive drive to address the situation, most of these could have been avoided or mitigated, to say the least.
The known pace of the population growth levels within the Khomas Region, coupled with an increasing migration from other regions, has created a situation which, if not addressed nor accommodated with immediate effect, will continue to put extreme pressure on the city’s limited financial resources and its infrastructure.
In addition to the above, the known slow pace of land redistribution or allocation with its subsequent lack of mass land servicing are further contributing factors that need to be urgently addressed.
The prevailing countrywide drought, coupled with very low rain falls over the years in the central highland regions, has further made matters much worse to such an extent that additional water resources need to be secured in order to arrest the situation, a consequence which if not addressed could adversely affect the livelihoods of many inhabitants of the city and its surrounding areas.
Despite available historic weather patterns, data and information coupled with the declining water dam levels, the City of Windhoek management reacted too slowly to the situation and, as a consequence, has affected the livelihoods of many people and their businesses.
Windhoek had a population of 167 071 in 1991, which increased to 250 262 in 2001 and subsequently to 342 141 in 2011 as per the 2011 Namibia Statistic Agency main population and housing report.
These reports are compiled every 10 years with the next major one being released in 2021.
This report hence shows that the city’s population has almost doubled since the dawn of independence at an annual growth rate of over 10 percent, which by all means indicates that Windhoek could reach a population size of approximately 680 000 by the year 2021. These are startling population projections that are as a result of the current pace could create tremendous chaos and challenges for the city should things not improve at city and central government planning levels.
Despite the City of Windhoek being controlled at the highest level by previously disadvantaged members of the city, the outskirt suburbs such as Katutura, Cimbebasia and Otjomuise continue facing uphill battles to match up to the developmental infrastructure standards of uptown areas of the city.
With the above said, the city faces further challenges, which I will highlight in the reminder of this piece.
The City of Windhoek has all the necessary world-class amenities that are mostly enjoyed and accessible to those that stay in uptown areas, which unfortunately are not equally available or accessible to the masses of the city. The uptown areas have excellent wide roads with their supporting infrastructures such as robots and street lights, have well designed residential areas, whilst downtown areas such as Katutura, Cimbebasia and Otjomuise just to mention a few have smaller designed roads (except for the Independence Avenue road); a limited number of robots and street lights and poorly designed neighbourhoods.
The slow pace of land and infrastructure development across the City of Windhoek, coupled with an increasing population and its subsequent increase in the number of motor vehicles, has hence further created massive traffic jams at all major road intersections during peak and at most normal hours. This sad situation has further pushed many people to rent apartments due to the exorbitant property prices.
This situation has hence, in my humble opinion, divided the city in terms of development towards the township areas that are inhabited by the majority of its citizens. This current situation, coupled with the abovementioned major factors, has allowed the springing up of zinc structures across the landscape of Katutura and other areas for a very large number of people to such an extent that it will be very difficult or close to impossible to reverse the situation.
Going forward, the City of Windhoek, with the assistance of the central government, needs to be honest with themselves and urgently fast-track the servicing of land, the provision of road, electricity and sanitation for the benefit of the masses in order to avoid more social problems and challenges.
The fact of the matter is that the City of Windhoek will continue to be the major point of attraction for many citizens and foreigners that seek academic and employment opportunities and should henceforth ensure that it has the capacity and capability to address the current and future needs of its inhabitants, a consequence which will be highly difficult to reverse.
*Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian socio-economist