The owner of Endombo compound in Tsumeb, Christo Groenewald, says he is disappointed by Cabinet’s decision not to purchase the property. He claims he was never given reasons for the decision, yet he is expected to accommodate tenants who have refused to pay rent for the past four years.
The property was offered for N$21.3 million, but government has now refused to buy it. The initial estimated cost of the property was N$60 million. That figure, however, came down to N$39 million during negotiations that started in December last year. It further went down to N$30.4 million, before dropping to the last rejected price.
“I am being victimised in this whole situation. Government needs to treat me fairly. I have suffered financial losses for more than four years. They have rejected the idea,” bemoaned Groenewald, while adding that he was still up for a price negotiation.
“In fact, they offered to buy the place. We met with (urban and rural development) minister Erastus Uutoni on Monday, where I was informed Cabinet decided otherwise, and no reasons were given. I was then asked by the minister that I accommodate the tenants for six months or more to allow the municipality to finish servicing a piece of land where they are likely to be moved.
The question is, at whose cost will these people be accommodated? Because I can no longer withstand the losses. Unless the municipality comes on board and offers to pay monthly rent, then I can allow them to stay for as long as payments last.”
Meanwhile, Tsumeb mayor Mathews Hangula said although the element of who should shoulder the rental payment was not discussed, the leadership is still open to discuss that for a possible win-win outcome.
“This will be a collective decision, inasmuch as we appreciate Groenewald’s patience and tolerance the whole time. Cabinet is looking at a long-term solution, where residents can be provided with land to build houses. So, it should not be construed as if government rejected, but it is rather a decision that was compounded by various factors,” he added.
The mayor said part of the solution is to make about 400 plots available, which will be allocated to residents who applied, as well as Endombo tenants. The compound has 2 000 inhabitants, which is likely to leave many homeless if the eviction process is effected.
Groenewald stressed that tenants owe him an estimated N$6.5 million for the past four years, excluding interest. Tenants have also barred him from entering Endombo, as they have threatened to attack him. He recounted how shocked he was when he visited the property in the company of Uutoni a few years back, saying it is totally damaged and no longer in good shape.
“All those defects will still cost me more money because the people (tenants) have vandalised the structures. So, I still hope there are other options being sought by the wgovernment. Other than that, I will have to act and instruct the messenger of court to kick-start the process,” he stated.
Tsumeb constituency councillor Gottlieb Ndjendjela, who headed a committee tasked to deal with the Endombo evictions, urged central government and Groenewald to find an amicable solution.
“The local leadership’s hands are tied because we are dealing with a private property matter. So, he might decide what is in his favour, but we will try to talk and convince him in the best interest of both,” he observed.
The Endombo saga dates back to 2017 when Groenewald wanted to evict defaulting tenants. The tenants stopped paying rental fees, claiming they were being overcharged as the property is in a dilapidated state.
Other reasons were that Groenewald was not the legitimate owner. The matter was challenged in the High Court, which ruled in favour of the eviction order. The group, however, appealed the judgement in the Supreme Court.
Government intervened last year to find an amicable solution after eviction orders were granted to remove about 2 000 people.
The tenants have refused to come around and resume with the usual rental payments, arguing that there is still an appeal in the Supreme Court in which they are disputing the legality of Groenewald’s property ownership claims.
“We are setting the record straight that we shall not pay a single cent because we wanted to know how and when Groenewald became the owner as we felt he has just been collecting money for his own benefit at the expense of the masses. Therefore, in the absence of such, no one will pay,” said the Endombo committee’s vice chairperson, Immanuel Shilonda.
He, however, welcomed the idea of giving them land.
“We will wait until we get the plots. Thereafter, we can leave the property he has been fighting for. It is a good option,” Shilonda contended.