Pandemonium erupted in Windhoek yesterday when police officers clashed with fuming residents who had illegally occupied land for days in the Otjomuise and the Tobias Hainyeko constituency.
The standoff led to police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga intervening and threatening to take over the affairs of the city council in an apparent jab to the feuding Windhoek local authority councillors.
“The chaos started at the City of Windhoek – and now, it has degenerated to their residents. If they are not careful, we are going to run over that council. And we will govern that council,” he warned while speaking at Otjomuise yesterday, where he was dispersing land grabbers in the area.
The land grabbers have been clearing land intermittently for weeks.
Ndeitunga blamed the council for causing the anarchy in the Otjomuise and Mukwanangombe locations, respectively.
Mothers clutching babies scattered to all corners as officers stormed the agitated crowd, who were hurling insults and questioning the motives of police officers.
Fear, anger and teargas hung in the air.
As the police reserve force engaged in running battles with the land grabbers, the frustrated top cop told reporters the city’s current political leadership is well qualified in fighting.
“The council has completely failed to unite; as a result, they are now causing chaos. If they are not putting themselves in order, we will assist them. We want peace – not anarchy and chaos. We cannot allow national security to be threatened,” he said.
The police arrested more than 20 people in connection with land grabbing at both locations.
“So far, we have arrested more people, including the four instigators of the mass land grabbing – and we are not playing. We will make sure that we send out a strong message to the people who are into these illegal activities – not only in Windhoek but everywhere in the country. They must be aware that we are coming,” said Ndeitunga.
“Those who have PhD in complaining and fighting in the city, we will deal with them. We are sending a stern warning to the land grabbers that we cannot allow chaos; it must be an orderly society. We will be continuing to patrol to make sure that we teach those people a lesson.”
Some land grabbers were reacting to the police with rocks but they were quickly dispersed with teargas.
The Special Reserve Force also demolished structures that have been put up illegally by land grabbers at Mkwanangobe informal settlement in Windhoek’s Tobias Hainyeko constituency.
A group that held a protest in support of the illegal land grabbers in Otjomuise has also been dispersed by the police.
Among those gathered, some identified themselves as members of the Otjomuise Land Grabbers Committee.
Political analyst Gerson Sindano yesterday said the land grabbing in Windhoek is a result of structural and political failure from the authority – be it the previous or the current council.
“The absence of moral courage at all leadership structures in the nation has culminated in the political chaos we see in the heartland of our nation. The land situation in Windhoek has to be resolved as soon as possible before the situation gets out of hand – a political solution is needed,” he said.
He said the issue of land should not just be seen as City of Windhoek mayor Job Amupanda’ s problem, but as a time-ticking bomb.
According to him, the disputes arise from competing demands for land between the poor communities in the informal sectors and domestic elites who seem to be thriving at the expense of the less fortunate.
“The lucky, politically connected ones but hardly the best in the nation continue to subject the struggling families to unchecked rental fees. And as a result, these people are left with two options: fold your hands and wait or grab a piece of land and settle down,” he said.
“Of course, lawlessness should not be condoned. Proper procedures should be followed by the people who intend to acquire land. Politically, this will go down as perhaps the most uncomfortable dilemma the current mayor of Windhoek has ever faced.”
Another political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah took issue with comments made by Ndeitunga, saying he has no constitutional right to threaten an elected council.
“Any takeover of some sort must be done within the bounds of the country laws – not through the police chief’s whims. Threats are not in line with the democratic virtues of any democratic society such as Namibia. Frankly, it is scary and frightening to hear the increasing militaristic language coming from the police barracks and other security strata in recent days. If law enforcement thinks that they will solve the urban land crisis in Windhoek or anywhere in the country, they must think again. Doing so would actually escalate the problem – not solve it. What is needed is good public policy – not policing,” he said.
‘Stay in your line’
PDM president McHenry Venaani also rebuked the police chief in a tweet late yesterday afternoon.
“I condemn with the strongest term the meddling of the Inspector General in the affairs of the political governance of the City of Windhoek. It is not General Ndeitunga [’s] place to make political commentary. Stay in your lane, police.”
Contacted for comment, Amupanda’s phone went unanswered. However, he commented on Ndeitunga’s pronouncements on social media.
“We knew it already and now it is confirmed. ‘We’ means Swapo since we know that police don’t govern local authorities. It is all planned,” he said.
Amupanda later tweeted: “I had spoken to Ndeitunga on the phone three days ago. He told me that he called the minister to call in the city councillors – and the minister did. Today, he just confirmed what they discussed, invocation of Section 92. That one has always been a politician. The puzzle is complete!”
Former mayor and current Swapo councillor Fransina Kahungu said the council could not do much, as the current mayor publicly announced that the demolition of homes will only take place with the approval of council.
“We did not sit as a council to give approval of demolishing; hence, I can’t say much,” she said.
The ruling city coalition has gone through upheaval in recent weeks, as the parties fail to agree on its promises to deliver houses to residents, who have struggled with homelessness and exorbitant rent.
The Independent Patriots for Change has four seats, while the AR and the Landless People’s Movement have two each. The Popular Democratic Movement and Nudo have one seat each, while Swapo has five seats.
IPC national chairperson Brian Black yesterday said its chairperson of the City of Windhoek management committee, Fillemon Hambuda, left the council on his own accord because he could not work with Amupanda.
“Hambuda has over the time complained about working with Amupanda; that is why he was removed,” Black said.