Windhoek-It has emerged that Katima Mulilo Town Council had not obtained the required court order when it elected to bring in bulldozers last week to demolish houses and structures built illegally, leaving a sizeable number of residents homeless and destitute.
The revelation was made, almost as a footnote, in a parliamentary briefing by Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
In condemning the illegal grabbing of land and blatant disregard for municipal by-laws, Shaningwa let it slip to fellow lawmakers that the “council unfortunately concedes that in this incident, they neglected to obtain a court order to the effect”.
It was reported earlier by Nampa that part of the reason the town council stopped with the demolition of houses on Monday was to allow itself time to respond to letters received from lawyers representing the affected residents.
On Wednesday, Shaningwa urged residents to allow the council time to respond to the letters received from the lawyers and other organisations. It is not known how many residents have sought legal counsel, or have presented the municipality with legal notices with regard to their destroyed homes.
The widely reported demolition of houses last week resulted in skirmishes between residents and police, wherein one person was allegedly injured, as the police stopped people from interfering with the demolition of the houses.
Katima Mulilo Town Council said it brought in bulldozers to demolish the illegal structures and houses constructed without municipal approval of the building plans. It said the demolition was the last option after homeowners and residents failed to respond to the notices to move or have their structures approved.
Shaningwa reiterated that stance, saying the town council actively engaged the illegal occupants of the subject town lands before taking drastic measures, but the occupants were uncooperative.
“The decision taken by council to demolish their illegal structures was taken as a last resort in an effort to restore law and order,” Shaningwa explained.
The minister had travelled to Katima on Sunday to gain first-hand knowledge of what transpired in the area. She held a meeting with the regional and local leadership on Monday, the main subject of which was the demolition of structures by the town council.
She said the whole situation was being politicised and clarified that the picture circulating of a bulldozer that was set alight was not related to the events at Katima.
She also said the photo of a woman bleeding rom the face that was circulating online was also not true as it did not occur at the demolitions in question, while rubbishing rumours that a child had lost their life during the demolition process, as false information.
“These are all false and fictitious stories created to cause anxiety and discontent among the society. While I am fully sympathetic with the people affected by the demolitions of structures, I strongly believe that we need to cooperate and adhere to our laws. This will enable us all to live in harmony as a nation,” she urged.
She said the meeting she held with Katima Mulilo’s regional and local leadership resolved that incidents of land grabbing should be stopped and prevented and that residents should adhere to the laws of the country.
The council also agreed to hold community meetings in various suburbs to engage local people and explain the procedures and processes to be followed in land and building applications, including information on the boundaries of the town.