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Home / Formalise informal settlements: Shack Dwellers Federation

Formalise informal settlements: Shack Dwellers Federation

2019-03-25  Selma Ikela

Formalise informal settlements: Shack Dwellers Federation

WINDHOEK – The Shack Dwellers Federation national facilitator, Edith Mbanga, proposes that all local authorities upgrade informal settlements and involve communities in the planning of and developing  informal settlements. 

Mbanga says people are already occupying the land and instead of moving them they should formalise the settlements where people are living. She informs that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gobabis municipality and the community to formalise Damara block and after they have  re-designed the settlement, they will be able to come out with 1,300 houses, put up water metres  and are busy with the sewer. They are working on putting up manholes to connect a sewer system to the houses.  Mbanga says although they have not built houses yet, people are busy preparing themselves to do it. 

 The federation has managed to get 4,700 people into formal houses  countrywide with the support of the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, First National Bank (FNB), Ohorongo Cement, Pupkewitz and Standard Bank’s buy a brick project. Mbanga adds that people are organising themselves and forming their own saving groups. There are more than 27,000 members countrywide and about N$29 million has been saved. However, this amount is not kept in one bank account as each and every group has its own bank account.  “For me now is to encourage our community to continue saving and not give up because whenever you do something for yourself in the end you will achieve something,” remarks Mbanga.

Whenever they are planning or developing the informal settlements, local authorities should involve the communities because they are the ones staying in the settlements and know their own needs. She says local authorities may suggest to give electricity but instead water and toilets may be more important to the residents. During the second national land conference last October, Mbanga says, there  were 308 settlements in Namibia with 228 000 shacks accommodating about 995 000 people in urban areas. This means that close to 40 percent of the Namibian population are now living in shacks in urban areas, predominantly in Windhoek.

According to City of Windhoek, there are 160,000 people living in Windhoek’s informal settlements. City spokesperson Lydia Amutenya  says the  long-term solution in addressing urbanisation challenges is to create opportunities  in Windhoek and other parts of the country where people are migrating from. “I believe not everyone comes to Windhoek because they just want to live here, but the economic situation forces people to migrate here hoping that the grass is much greener on this side, but when you eventually get here, reality strikes you,” says Amutenya.

Amutenya adds that urban influx is a challenge because most of the residents are unable to afford municipal services due to economic challenges such as unemployment. Amutenya says the city operates on a cost recovery basis where services can only effectively be rendered if they are able to recover the cost of rendering such services, but it is unfortunately not the case. People migrate to the city for various reasons but mostly hoping for better prospects in employment and education. However, she says migration results in high demand for municipal services such as serviced land, water, electricity, sanitation and other infrastructure. Over the years, most if not all the cases of illegal land occupation have been recorded on the north-western side of the city and this compounds the challenges of orderly development of urban land.

“It is a fact that the demand has exceeded supply when it comes to land delivery and as a result, we find ourselves in this situation. The City of Windhoek has solely relied on its own resources to make budgetary provision to address these challenges, but resources are inadequate and unable to meet the demand,” Amutenya says.

Similarly, in Swakopmund there are about 10,000 households in informal settlements. Aili Gebhardt from the municipality says the then ‘uranium rush’’ around Swakopmund mines like Husab, Areva and Langer Heinrich attracted many people to Swakopmund. Gebhardt adds that the general rural-urban migration where people come from rural areas to towns in search of employment and a better life, is the cause for the mushrooming of informal settlements in urban centres. She adds that lack of funds by councils to finance the provision of housing, serviced land and water supply to all residents is  also a contributing factor to an increased population in the informal settlements.

Gebhardt says the Swakopmund municipality is busy with an intervention to arrest the situation, mobilising residents, especially those in the low-income categories to form part of the saving groups under the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia.  Also 39 contractors have been allocated 40 erven each to build social as well as credit link houses, which will total 1,593 houses. “Eight developers have been appointed to install services in eight blocks (virgin land) whereafter they will return a certain portion of serviced land to council, which can be used to provide housing or land to residents,” she says.

Gebhardt adds that they will plan a “reception area” for the new entrants to town thereby avoiding informal settlements or land grabbing in future.

2019-03-25  Selma Ikela

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