The City of Windhoek has approached the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development with a proposal to have its debt - due to central government - written off in exchange for large tracts of land in the capital’s informal settlements.
Windhoek mayor Fransina Kahungu told New Era the City owes government about N$700 million, including interest, after signing an on-lending agreement for a variety of projects dating back to the period between 1994-1999.
City of Windhoek deputy mayor Ian Subasubani announced at a council meeting last week that the local authority has written to the line ministry, for Cabinet consideration, with the objective of fast-tracking the provision of affordable housing.
“The City is busy with various development projects that are aimed at improving informal settlements in order to improve the lives of residents living in informal settlements.
Therefore, giving land to government so that it can clear the debts the City owes government in order to service residential plots in informal settlements is part of the projects,” he said.
The City was provided four on-lending loans for different projects in the 1990s by the central government. If realised, the proposed agreement could see council making available between 10 000 and 20 000 erven for residential land in the informal settlements. The proposed debt swap is made with the objective of fast-tracking the provision of affordable urban housing and subsidisation of ownership of plots by central government.
According to Kahungu, the proposal, if approved, will swap land occupied by residents in the informal settlement for an existing debt owed to the government by providing tenure to the inhabitants with the provision of basic services.The mayor said the City was borrowed N$11.2 million in 1994 to upgrade and extend the existing water supply, sewage, electricity and road systems of Windhoek based on the 1996 Windhoek structural plan and the associated masterplan for a number of sectors. She added that in 1997, the loan amounting to N$65.1 million, was received and used for water reclamation at Goreangab water treatment plant and midway pump station and pipelines to reservoirs. “In 1999, the City of Windhoek had received two loans in September and October. One loan amounting to N$71 million was used for the upgrading of the roads such as the southern link roads, the paving of streets in Katutura and Robert Mugabe Avenue. It was also used to finance the extension of water supply to Goreangab, laboratory equipment as well as the Windhoek sewer replacement. It was further used for the loan management system and extension of reticulation,” she explained. Kahungu stated that the fourth loan of N$51 million was used for various smaller projects, cutting across sectors, including low-cost housing at Otjomuise, electricity provision, sanitation, street paving and solid waste collection.
Approached for comment, urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni confirmed receiving the proposal. He said they will study the document with other stakeholders, including the finance ministry and the National Planning Commission before a final Cabinet decision.
Hard at work… Windhoek mayor Fransina Kahungu.