Following years of protracted negotiations over the eviction of over 2 000 Tsumeb residents and the possible sale of Endombo, the parties seem to have finally reached consensus, as a technical committee has recommended that government purchase the controversial property.
This is according to a report seen by this publication in which the committee tasked by urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni has recommended that N$21.3 million, which owner Christo Groenewald has set as the last price, is reasonable considering various circumstances. Failure to purchase the property, Groenewald has threatened to proceed to evict families who were issued with court orders to vacate the property for failing to pay rent since 2017. Uutoni yesterday said the matter is still being deliberated on, hence nothing has yet been decided upon.
“This issue is in a process of engagement with various stakeholders; therefore, we are now gathering information required before we inform those involved,” Uutoni said briefly. 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 N$21.3 million. The committee, headed by Tsumeb councillor Gottlieb Ndjendjela argued evicting over 2 000 people will lead to homelessness as the local authority does not have land to service and accommodate such a large number. In addition, they said, servicing of erven in the current economic climate would be a challenge.
“Therefore, buying the property will be the best option for government in an effort to buy time, while trying to devise a long-lasting plan on the property and the people,” said the report. Groenewald allegedly said the property would be sold on the condition that he will remove some items such as the cooling system, furniture, as well as other equipment.
“We are just waiting for the ministry to pronounce themselves. As for the committee, we are done. Groenewald has been patient and has sympathy, hence his willingness to engage and try to resolve the situation finally,” said Ndjendjela, when confirming the price tag. In addition, the report indicated that the concerned residents’ committee suggested that government buys the property, thereafter, demolish it, and revamp the place, which is described to be in a deplorable condition.
“The resident also said they will be paying rent to the government, while some also appealed to the state to find alternative areas where they can be relocated,” states the report.
Last week, Tsumeb mayor Mathews Hangula said the matter is now in the hands of Uutoni before Cabinet makes a final decision. “Government through the land ministry sent its evaluators to determine the cost of the property. That process was concluded, so we are waiting for feedback. In the meantime, the 43 plots, which are being serviced to accommodate some of the Endombo tenants, will be completed this month.
The delay was caused by the pandemic, as some materials had to be procured abroad,” stressed Hangula.
Endombo compound has been a bone of contention since 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 judgment in the Supreme Court. Since then, there has been a great misunderstanding between the two parties, until the government intervened last year to find an amicable solution after eviction orders were granted to remove about 2 000 people. – email@example.com