Squatters want fast-tracking of relocation

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Eveline de Klerk

Walvis Bay-Illegal land occupiers at Walvis Bay want to Minister of Rural and Urban Development Sophia Shaningwa, as well as Governor of the Erongo Region Cleophas Mutjavikua to pressure the Namibia Planning Advisory Board (Nampab) to fast-track the Farm 37 housing initiative for their relocation.

Landless residents and Nampol clashed again on Tuesday after the residents erected shacks on council land just next to the main road, barely two weeks after the previous occupants were evicted from private land in Tutaleni.

This time around, according to Namibian police chief in Erongo, Commissioner Andreas Nelumbu, three persons were arrested including a woman for obstructing the course of justice after they refused to move from the area.

He told New Era the police had used rubber bullets to disperse protesters after they threw stones at the police. At least three people sustained slight injuries as a result. Nelumbu added that the situation is currently under control and that Nampol would patrol the area to avoid any shacks being erected.

When New Era visited the site on Tuesday morning Walvis Bay municipal workers were collecting all the building material at the demolished site. A few visibly displeased occupants of the illegal shacks were still idling on the land and told New Era they are being treated like beggars in their own country.

The group vowed to continue sleeping in the open space until the municipality finds a solution to accommodate them.

One of the occupants, 47-year-old Bernard Gabriel, said Walvis Bay Municipality has been making empty promises to landless residents since last year. “They talked about Farm 37 since last year, but it’s not forthcoming. Earlier this year they told us that they are waiting for Nampab. Up to now there is no feedback and we are tired of waiting,” he said.

Another landless resident, Johanna Elago, said they simply cannot afford to rent shacks anymore, as it is too costly.

“We have kids to feed and our families in the north and we don’t make much. Most of us here are kapana sellers. How are we going to survive if all our earnings goes into rent? We, the landless residents, want our governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua, and our Minister Sophia Shaningwa to put pressure on Nampab so they can speed up the process. We are willing to do our part and help with the hard labour. We just want decent housing,” she said.

Ironically, Mutjavikua last week before the land grab started, called on Namibian lawmakers to review laws that hamper service delivery. The governor specifically pointed to the Farm 37 situation and said Walvis Bay Council plans to develop low-cost housing to relocate 65,000 residents to the area, who currently rent.

However, Nampab rejected their initial submission in November last year, citing that residents were not properly informed about the idea. Council went back in February and consulted with residents and once again made the submission to Nampab and are still waiting for feedback.

“We applied last year in March for that piece of land in order to create a new suburb. It’s been a year and we’re still struggling to get it approved. We had a high-level discussion with the Namibia Planning Advisory Board in January.

“Since then they are still busy studying the minutes of the meeting for approval. This is the type of bureaucracy we are talking about and it must stop, as it hampers service delivery,” Mutjavikua said.

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