Article 16 (2) of the Namibian Constitution states that “The State or a competent body or organ authorised by law may expropriate property in the public interest subject to the payment of just compensation in accordance with requirements and procedures to be determined by Act of Parliament.”
South Africa, which achieved nationhood four years after Namibia, seems to be politically seriously intent on addressing the question of land dispossession if the recent adoption by the South African parliament of a motion of “expropriation without compensation” is anything go by. The reverse seems to be instead taking place in Namibia, where those with small pieces of land are subjected to unofficial expropriation without compensation by government officials. As the case of the single mother from Gobabis testifies. She has practically been expropriated of her Build Together house without compensation by an official of the town council of Gobabis, if not by the town council itself.
“In 1999 I obtained a loan under the Build Together Programme through the Gobabis Municipality for the building of a two-bedroom house with a kitchen, sitting room, a bathroom-cum-toilet on this particular erf.
“The loan was to the value of N$20,000 of which N$4,000 was for the buying of the erf and the N$16,000 for buying materials as well as paying the builders. However, it transpired that this N$16,000 was not enough to complete the building of the house.
“In 2002 I received a letter from Mr (name withheld), then with the Municipality of Gobabis in Epako. This letter was to the effect that this house was no longer mine and if there were any properties of mine, that I should remove it. I had at the time built a structure from zink plates where I kept the materials of the house like cement, door frames and window frames while I went to Windhoek to work there so that I could buy more materials and finish the house as I was in need of the house.
“Thereupon he informed that they have decided that this house was no longer mine and that I should remove my properties. However, there was no indication of the withdrawal of the loan. The reason given to me was that because I had not finished building the house they would take it back,” reads a letter that the single mother wrote in 2015 to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development.
To this day this resident of Gobabis, is still without a house, and has received no feedback. At one point upon a follow-up she was informed that her case had been referred to the Gobabis Town Council. Only to land on the desk of the very person who expropriated her land without compensation. One time she was apparently advised by an official in this ministry to go to lawyers.
The serious question is, what happened to this house, and probably many others and why has the town council and the ministry not investigated the matter further to bring in the town council official, who is alleged to be the con-person cheating the rightful and unsuspecting owners of their properties.
“I subsequently received information in 2014 from another loan holder who was building and who faced the same problem, of his house having been expropriated and apparently passed on to someone else while the erf is legally under his name as well as the municipal account,” testifies the would-be house owner.
When she went to Municipality of Gobabis where she obtained a statement of her account, it was still under her name and had been passed on to lawyers. “This informed me that I need to revisit this matter. I went to the municipality to ascertain whether this erf still existed under my name and I affirmed that somehow this erf was still under my name.”
The house has since been completed by another loan holder who apparently received a loan of N$48,000. But it has never been certain if this erf has been registered in the name of the new holder. But information from the municipality has been confirming the erf belonging to the original owner.
“The Gobabis Municipality officials have been under the impression that they have been renting this property from me still being under my name but I have never entered into a lease/rent agreement with the current occupiers of this house nor have I received any rent money from them,” reads the testimony of the complainant.
All these point to daylight robbery, ineptitude, incompetence and indifference on the part of all officials. Since this is the year of reckoning, it is up to the officials to take up the matter further, including the Ombudsman and the Office of the Prime Minister to whose attention the matter had been brought.