The outdated laws governing the City of Windhoek do not make it easy to regulate the influx of people to Windhoek, says Windhoek Mayor, Muesee Kazapua.
Windhoek has a population of about 400 000 people and out of this 100 000 are informal settlers. As it stands, people find it very easy to grab and occupy land in Windhoek because the city is governed by outdated municipal laws, says Kazapua. “When you start comparing the challenges of yesterday, you will see that they are completely different from the challenges of today,” adds Kazapua with reference to outdated municipal bylaws. Since independence, people have been flocking to Windhoek, and some other major towns in search of greener pastures. Often to their disappointment, some have found that the green is not as green as they thought it was. This has resulted in a situation where the Windhoek municipality is unable to provide adequate services to residents of the expanding city, notes Kazapua.
The burden that has been placed on Windhoek municipality has reached a crisis point in that people end up settling on un-serviced land, and still expecting municipality to provide services. Many of the people in informal settlements are yet to have ablution facilities, potable water and electricity, notes the city mayor. The influx of people to Windhoek and the municipality’s inability to provide services to these people last year resulted in the outbreak of Hepatitis E, which has so far (by the writing of this article) killed ten people. The most affected areas are the informal settlements of Havana and Goreangab. “Everybody wants a proper house and services but because of the influx we are unable to provide that. With amended bylaws we will be able to for example prevent people from grabbing land,” says Kazapua.
Meanwhile, 36-year old Rosaria Shimbode, a resident of Havana informal settlement’s Brenden Simbwaye section in the Samora Machel constituency says she moved to Windhoek in search of a better life. However, when she got here in 2007, she realised that the grass was not as green as she thought it would be. “I was motivated to relocate to Windhoek when I saw that one of our neighbour always dressed well when she went to the north so I thought life in Windhoek was good,” recounts Shimbode who hails from the Ohangwena Region.
She first worked at a bar in Greenwell Matongo, and then started selling roasted meat in Dorado before moving to Havana where she opened a mini-shop. “I was really suffering and that motivated me to push really hard to get to where I am today,” says Shimbode. She was forced to clear a piece of land in Havana that was previously unoccupied. “I was the first one to come here because the owner of the place where I was living first chased me away when he saw I was doing well in terms of business. When I came here, other people followed suit that is why you see that I have such a big portion of land,” says Shimbode.
The mother of three not only supports her children but being the first born child, she often has to send money back home. Shimbode is of the view that people flock to urban areas in search of greener pastures. “I failed Grade 12 so it is very difficult for me and others who failed Grade 12 to get decent jobs, and when you don’t have a job it means you don’t have an income and that means you can’t afford a decent place to live. That is how people end up here. But if there were development projects at the regions where we come from many people would not come here,” adds Shimbode.
Another Havana resident and community leader, David Kambalala, says many informal settlements residents have been living in the informal settlements for more than ten years. “Most of us did not come here yesterday so municipality cannot say that it did not plan for us,” says Kambalala.
‘Develop the regions’
According to the 1991 Namibia Population and Housing Census, the urban population of Namibia stood at 28 percent. Subsequently, this population increased to 33 percent in 2001 and further to 42 percent in 2011.
This trend is not unique to Namibia but it is also observed in most southern African countries where levels of urbanisation are estimated to have reached over 50 percent, according to Nelago Indongo (PhD) in her study titled “The effect of urbanisation on housing conditions in Namibia”. Urbanisation in Namibia is affected by population dynamics in urban population growth and internal migration, rural poverty that causes people to migrate to the city to improve their livelihood and the re-gazetting of some urban areas.
Although there has been an overall increase in urban population in Namibia, Windhoek City has by far been the major focus of urbanisation. Its population increased from 13.7 percent in 2001 to 16.2 percent, according to Indongo. Other towns such as Swakopmund, Oshakati and Ongwediva have also seen an increasing trend in urban population, especially after independence.
For instance, Ongwediva’s urban population doubled between 2001 and 2011. Due to insufficient accommodation in the city, individuals working in Windhoek opt to live in other neighbouring towns, Okahandja and Rehoboth greatly increasing its day time population. “High population growth implies that more housing units will be required to cater for the shelter needs. In the urban areas, the municipalities are confronted with a multitude of key problems like high urban densities, transport, traffic congestion, energy inadequacy, amongst others. Other related problems are unplanned development (illegal construction; informal markets; informal settlements); lack of basic services and other negative attributes, according to literature cited in Indongo’s study.
Despite the policy of decentralisation, which ultimately aims to devolve agreed responsibilities, functions and resource capacities to regional and local levels of government, Kazapua believes there should be development in the rural areas for people to remain where they are. “Government should redirect development to other towns so that it doesn’t just remain in Windhoek. Investors should consider taking their initiatives to the rural areas,” stresses Kazapua. In addition, developing a second town with the aim of making it the country’s second capital could be a solution to the urban influx situation. “Previously, people could not come to Windhoek without passes. We don’t want to take our people back there because the Namibian Constitution says people can stay wherever they want,” says Kazapua.
Apart from the influx of people to Windhoek, Namibia is doing relatively well in terms of overall development of the country, observes Kazapua. “We really appreciate the peace and stability that we are enjoying today,” he says.