Eveline de Klerk
Swakopmund-Swakopmund resident Martin Kakuwe has been living in a shack over the past five years in the Democratic Resettlement Community (DRC).
Kakuwe, 37, came from the Zambezi Region to Swakopmund in 2012 to find decent work to sustain his children, but he could only find employment as a security guard.
Kakuwe dreamed of making enough money to buy himself a house – however he got a rude wake-up call upon arrival at the coast when he experienced how expensive the cost of living is.
Soon Kakuwe found himself living in a shack on the outskirts of town among thousands of others, despite facing continual shack fires, lack of water, sanitation and other basic necessities such as shops and schools.
Ironically he ended up renting someone else’s shack for N$150 a month for the past five years, totalling N$9 000 for the five years, money that he could have saved and used as a down payment if he is fortunate enough to be allocated a plot after formalisation of the DRC.
His situation is indicative of the situation of tens of thousands of other homeless and landless people who out of desperation and blind faith to obtain a decent home in the overcrowded boundaries of Swakopmund are forced to find refuge in DRC and yet still pay for it despite lack of services.
The owners who are renting out these shacks are in many cases already home owners and are driven by greed to rope in as many plots as possible.
The irony however is that Kakuwe and others renting shacks in DRC stand a very slim chance of ever getting a plot of their own in the settlement that will soon be formalised.
Those who seek refuge in DRC are so desperate that the constant shack fires, long distances to fetch water at communal water points, and lack of water and sanitation do not discourage them in their quest for decent shelter.
He is aware he will not secure a place of his own at the end of the day and might even be forced to move or make way for the rightful owner of the plot.
“I have been looking for a place to build my own shack for years now, but to no avail, which resulted in me renting this shack from a lady that lives in Mondesa with her family. I am really worried that the Swakopmund Municipality will not even consider us that are renting here in DRC for possible plots or affordable houses, but I am hoping that I will eventually get a piece of land or a house,” he explained. Another DRC resident, 44-year-old Andreas Shikongo, told New Era he is also staying in someone else’s shack – for the past eight years.
“A family member brought me from the north to come look after their property here in DRC. She buys everything I need and gives me N$300 every second month for looking after it,” he explained.
According to Shikongo the family member who has a stable job is currently renting elsewhere because she does not want to live in discomfort.
“She says she will move back once DRC gets water and electricity,” he said.
Marketing and communications officer of the Swakopmund Municipality, Ailie Gebhardt, said the municipality is aware of such practices in DRC and has been urging residents to refrain from them.
“Renting out plots in DRC is not permitted at all. There are currently no services in DRC and those who are living in DRC are not being charged by council, whether they are residing legally or illegally on plots in DRC. Whoever is renting out property in DRC should be reported so that they can be dealt with.”