Half of Walvis Bay residents are backyard squatters

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Eveline de Klerk

Swakopmund-At least 50 percent of Walvis Bay’s estimated population of over 100 000 live in backyard shacks. This statistic was revealed by Walvis Bay mayor Wilfred Immanuel, who said the number of residents living in shacks has been on the increase since 1998. The mayor was highlighting the plight of Walvis Bay residents for decent housing and the effect of the influx of jobseekers to the coastal port town.

Shockingly the 50 000 people living in shacks in the town are sharing 13 500 shacks, which means on average each shack accommodates about four individuals.

According to national census statistics the number of people living in shacks in the town increased from 9 860 in 1994 to 28 000 in 2014, before leaping to 50 000 people as of today.

“All these people are in need of decent accommodation but due to our climate there are also no informal settlements. These are the challenges we are facing and that is why we need to collectively address the housing shortage at the town. Council cannot do it alone,” Immanuel said yesterday during the N$1 million donation made by Knowledge Katti Foundation at the town.

The demand for housing has increased at the town and people struggle to find adequate shelter, contributing to an increase of backyard squatters.

The increase in squatters has also resulted in the illegal occupation of private and public land at the town to such an extent that squatters often clash with the police when they attempt to evict illegal squatters, resulting in some squatters being arrested and others injured in the process.

Meanwhile, the Walvis Bay Municipality last week issued a statement saying it is under huge pressure to cope as a result of an ever-increasing influx of people to areas where congestion has become the norm.

“Providing services to occupants of informal housing is extremely challenging. The probability of cost recovery is virtually non-existent, yet access to those services is being delivered and sustained, while infrastructure still needs to be maintained,” the statement reads.

The statement also says that in order to alleviate the housing shortage, the council has identified Farm 37 as a possible solution with extensive consultations with the public as well as Nampab already conducted.

“The latter is currently evaluating the council’s amended application, and if approved the rest of the procedures would still have to be followed. There are no shortcuts unfortunately as all the stakeholders in this process are required to follow the law,” reads the statement.

Some of Nampab’s recommendations included consultations with the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Roads Authority and Civil Aviation.

All of these institutions have indicated in principle that they have no objections to the establishment of Farm 37 as a new township. Council’s amended submission to Nampab is expected to feature on the board’s agenda this month.

If approved the Walvis Bay Town Council plans to relocate more than 30 000 of the backyard squatters to Farm 37.

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