Bukalo-Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa has suggested the creation of ‘reception centres’ to temporarily house people arriving in the country’s urban areas, saying this would help mitigate and reduce incidents of land grabbing.
Shaningwa was responding to the ongoing stand-off between Katima Mulilo Town Council and its residents, where the town council brought in bulldozers to demolish homes constructed without municipal approval of the building plans.
The widely reported demolition of houses last week resulted in skirmishes between residents and police, wherein one person was injured, as the police stopped people from interfering with the demolition of their houses.
“I do not support land grabbing, but we have to look at the issues. When people are coming into our towns can we please perhaps make an area available for them, those ones who are in need of a small plot or so?” Shaningwa asked when she officiated at the handover of 29 mass housing units at Bukalo on Sunday.
“Let us perhaps create what we call reception centres and whomever perhaps develops or upgrades their income they can always buy assets,” such as the mass housing units.
“But land grabbing is not good for us,” she said.
Shaningwa further called on the residents to follow the right procedures in order to avoid conflicts with the municipalities. “All of us – even from the villages that we are coming from – before you put up your house you have to go to your headman or headwoman and ask for a small place. Hence, it is very, very important, if we do not do this you will end up seeing that we will fight one another – our people fighting the leaders, perhaps local leaders, the police and vice versa,” she said.
She further stressed that people should promote the spirit of “One Namibia One Nation”. She also emphasised that “disrespecting law and order will not take us anywhere. Instigating our community members against their leaders will also not take us anywhere”.
Shaningwa said although what happened in Katima Mulilo cannot be reversed, she would see to it that things are put in order.
“It is of course a sore feeling when I see – as I have seen on the TV these days, whereby the leadership and the people have to have this type of commotion… We have learnt from that and we are going to sit tomorrow (Monday) and see how we can rectify the situation altogether, but I am not encouraging land grabbing in the Republic of Namibia.”
In a press release on Friday, Katima Mulilo Town Council said that as of 2014 when people started settling in various parts of town without council’s permission, they have been trying to advise them to voluntarily stop, but to no avail. Council said it had been trying to construct low-cost houses, but all efforts have been blocked by the illegal occupants and as a result matters came to a head and council had to take action.
“After all efforts have failed, Council in the meeting of the 11th of July 2017, held with the illegal land occupants, decided to remove them with immediate effect… a case of illegal occupation was opened with the Namibia police,” reads the statement.
Critics have condemned the way in which people’s homes were demolished and speculation has been rife that some people were injured and some may have even died. The town council has however denied the allegations, stressing that everything was done lawfully.
On Friday, Katima Mulilo Mayor Georgina Mwiya-Simataa vowed that the removal of illegal structures would continue until all illegal structures at the town are removed.
She said: “Removing these illegal structures will pave way for council to service land… I therefore wish to assure the nation at large, more especially the residents of Katima Mulilo, that council will make sure that issues of illegal land occupation are resolved amicably to the benefit of the residents at large.”