A decision by the City of Windhoek to farm out parking meter services to private companies has irked car guards, who say the council took their bread from their mouths and gave it to the rich.
Craft vendors likewise said the new regime has left the central business district (CBD) empty, and tourists no longer visit their stalls as shuttle drivers try to avoid paying the new parking fees. One of the car guards who used to operate along the public parking area in the Robert Mugabe area and is now safeguarding vehicles at the old Wernhil open space, said he used to make around N$4 000 per month from guarding cars to feed his family.
“I live in Katutura. I guarded cars for the past five years. When they took over, they employed security guards to guard the cars without considering us,” he stated while refusing to reveal his name.
Another car guard at the same spot supported his colleague, saying they are also scared that the city will extend the same function to Wernhil mall, and they will be left unemployed.
“Although we do not have permanent jobs, we are surviving. If they extend the same issue here, then our survival is at stake. I pray they remain where they are now so that they allow us to survive on the little we get,” he added.
Namutenya Asino, a long-term vendor selling handmade crafts, said the new parking system has impacted their businesses significantly.
She added that tourists, who are their primary customers, are discouraged from coming due to the parking fees.
Asino stated that she had a passion for crafting jewellery since she was 12 years old, but their business got disrupted due to this parking management fiasco.
“I have been in this business for a very long time. Our main clients are tourists. We sell craft jewellery to tourists when they come into the country and are being dropped off by the shuttle drivers. Now that a parking fee is being charged and managed privately, the shuttle is discouraged to bring clients here,” she observed.
Asino emotionally accused the city of milking the poor and enriching the rich.
“We have an intact contract with the city to pay rent every month. If we fail to pay, the city threatens to evict us. This is the means of our survival. We have no other income, and now the business has been destroyed. This is not fair,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
She gave a breakdown that before the implementation of the private parking management system, they used to make N$5 000 per week. Now, the business has been disturbed, and is only generating N$1 000 to N$3 000 a week.
“Just make calculations of the loss we have made in those months. It is a lot, as that is the money we used to get new stock with, pay rent and support our families,” she elaborated.
“I have been in the industry for a long time, so I picked up some experience along the way when I worked at my mom’s craft shop, Big Five Arts & Crafts. That is when I decided to venture into crafts and design,” she said.
Supporting Asino’s sentiment was Kukerua Musutua, who said clients now see them by chance as they are not willing to pay for parking.
“We do not have a permanent, properly- demarcated place made for us. We are operating here temporarily, and we pay every month. We pack up our items every day at the end of the business day. Some items are breakable, and nobody compensates us for that,” she said.
Another vendor, Rauru Tjiurua, lamented that the city is focusing on milking them instead of prioritising boosting the economy by letting people generate income uninterruptedly.
“I came from Opuwo to make a living in the city after our livestock died during a drought that hit Kunene, and now my business is disturbed. I have children and relatives whom I am supporting with the little I am making here. This is not fair,” she complained.
Jackline Kasume also stated that the privatisation of parking spaces has had a major impact on their business, urging the City of Windhoek to allocate them a permanent place to operate from without interruptions.
The city, however, said appointing KeyPlot Investments owned by property mogul Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun, and ChargeTech Namibia, two private firms, to manage parking in the CBD was done to increase revenue for the cash-strapped council.
KeyPlot Investment was roped in three months ago to generate N$5 million for the City in five years, the city’s spokesperson Harold Akwenye confirmed.
He dismissed the allegation that the city had snatched the bread out of the ordinary car guards’ mouths, who received a tip from owners for keeping vehicles safe.
Approached for comment, Namundjebo-Tilahun emphasised her company’s commitment to the City’s development and asset protection. She denied intentions of exploiting the poor for profit, and said their plan was just to develop the City.
“How much am I making from that parking? No, seriously I have no intentions of milking the poor but to develop the city as well as protect valuable properties such as cars,” she added.
She also defended her company, saying they employed Namibians and not foreigners, before she referred all other enquiries to the City which awarded the tenders in the first place.
Based on the fees approved by the City of Windhoek, which came into effect in March 2023, drivers should expect to pay N$2 for the first 20 minutes to park in the City Centre Parkade, N$5 for an hour, and N$42 for eight hours.
For on-street parking in the CBD, drivers should expect to fork out N$8 per hour to park in the core of the CBD, N$5 for the inner CBD, and N$3 to park on the peripheries of the CBD.
ChargeTech Namibia has been awarded the right to manage the top parking deck at the City of Windhoek head office, accessed through Robert Mugabe Avenue, and started charging in March this year.
KeyPlot Investments has been awarded the right to manage metered parking in the CBD, extending between Bahnhof Street, Robert Mugabe Avenue, Lazarette Street, Jan Jonker Road, Tal Street and Mandume Ndemufayo Avenue.
KeyPlot will also manage the Town Square Under-roof Parking and parking opposite the Windhoek police station.
Akwenye stated that the municipality’s primary objective with the proposed parking system is to maintain metered on-street parking within the city to ensure the desired turnaround of parking and occupation rates, generating revenue while minimising losses.
“The city has been losing money for the past five years when the metered devices were being vandalised by unknown people. The main aim is to gain money, as the contract is expected to generate N$5 million for five years. Secondly, drivers should give each other a chance by parking only for one or two hours. If a person occupies a parking spot for a longer period, they will be forced to pay more,” he defended.
“Those shuttles are operating from the private parking spaces, and are subject to the fees. That parking belongs to the owner of the Hilton Hotel, who is also the owner of PKI, which manages those parking spots. The city has nothing to do with that parking,” he noted.
Akwenye also clarified that when the two companies assumed the management of the parking areas, they approached the car guards to be interviewed for job opportunities.
“The former guards were offered interviews to get employed. Some declined due to low salaries, some quit the jobs, and some are still employed,” he said.
Those who are employed are getting paid a salary of N$3 500 every month, although most of them allegedly earn higher than that.
At present, the CBD occupancy is higher, a development which has contributed to parking shortages.
(Parking 1, 2 and 3)