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Gawanas blames money for Windhoek’s woes

2022-07-26  Edward Mumbuu

Gawanas blames money for Windhoek’s woes

Windhoek mayor Sade Gawanas finds herself between a rock and a hard place. 

Political bickering, lack of funds, cumbersome implementation processes and reluctant officials are among the stumbling blocks confronting the Gawanas-led municipality as it attempts to address the myriad challenges the city faces. 

From delivering land expeditiously, affordable housing, addressing a toxic work environment at the city, converging ideological differences among political parties, managing a huge wage bill and debt collection, Gawanas faces a mammoth task to inspire confidence in Windhoek

In a tell-it-all discussion with New Era last week, she said making progress in the midst of chaos is not for the faint-hearted. 

At present, a motion of no confidence in the management committee has been invoked.  More so, a coalition that will dislodge the current one in December has been mooted. 

To add insult to injury, Windhoek is without a substantive CEO. 

For many residents, filling this position has been the catalyst of some of the city’s challenges.  It also exposed the clear lines drawn between the factions in the city leadership.

Now, with less than five months left before her term runs out as the city’s first resident, troubles continue piling up for the fledgling politician.

Gawanas conceded that running the city is a tough nut to crack. 

“It is extremely difficult,” she said. 

Her biggest challenge since taking the hot seat was to converge diametrically opposed politicians and technocrats with different ideologies, wishes and aspirations that make up the municipal council. 

She wanted a team – not individuals. 

“You even find some executives and managers who tell us that ‘you will just be here for five years. You found us here and will leave us here’,” she said, pointing out the poor attitude that has engulfed the city. 

“We have implementation problems. You have politics in it, but most of our problems are because of finances.”

She moved to the council’s greatest challenge: formalising the informal settlements. “Things just don’t happen like that. I cannot wake up today and give land to 100 people. We are finding it extremely hard to deal with the informal settlements because of the urbanisation rate,” said Gawanas.

But without the requisite funds at its disposal, coupled wit'h cumbersome processes, there is not much the municipality can do to fast-track land delivery, she acknowledged.  “Our mandate is to provide land, water and electricity. But the city council does not have money to service the land. That is why we went with public private partnerships (PPPs).”  

Worse is the city currently owes NamWater around N$110 million, stemming from water the municipality provided free of charge during the Covid-19 pandemic. Residents owe the municipality around N$1 billion. The PPPs have failed to yield desired outcomes. 

Plans are afoot to review performing and non-performing PPPs with the view to terminate the latter group. 


Contract labourers

Also at her doorstep is the plight of over 600 workers who are on contract for four years. 

These contracts are renewed every six months. The city has since embarked on a feasibility study to determine whether the contractors can be absorbed into its structures. The city also stands accused of using around 400 interns for cheap labour. “These people want job security, and their expectations are that the city will employ them. Unfortunately, we can’t absorb all of them without affecting the organisation’s finances,” she lamented. 

To address this, she said, the municipality must unlock its development potential by streamlining its policies to the nation’s development agenda.

“It should be practical,” she proposed.



All hope is not lost, she noted, as they are deliberating on the delivery of affordable housing and land for the next five years.  An electrification plan for Windhoek’s informal settlements, Mix settlement and Groot Aub is also at an advanced stage. 

It will be rolled out over the next five years.

Meanwhile, the city is also looking to secure funding, “but our books are not in order”. 



In the midst of the political storms and precarious financial climate, the Landless People’s Movement leader pointed to key recorded successes during her reign. “We believe there are several opportunities in the broader spectrum of the identified areas of cooperation with a focus on both sustainable development, climate partnership, creative arts, cultural heritage and tourism,”
she said.  

Her trip to Bremen and Mannheim, Germany, earlier this year bagged N$37 million for waste management, she said.

Through twinning agreements, she said, they have been able to secure great opportunities that Windhoek can leverage in terms of solid waste management, affordable building materials and how to deal with urbanisation. 

“This is all to make the provision of services to our people cheaper.”


Hard worker

She then addressed the elephant in the room: her double-dipping transport benefits. 

Gawanas has been receiving a transport allowance while also using the municipality’s vehicles in violation of the city’s policies.

According to her, she is not in it for the money. 

“I am not a salary collector,” she said. 

Since ascending to the position, Gawanas has been on the ground, dealing with issues confronting residents head-on. 

“I have been to orphanages, schools and hospitals, and I’m always on the ground with the community. I attend workshops, go on site visits… even when I was arrested in Okahandja Park, I was in my official capacity attending to a community matter,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Gawanas will soon jet off to the World Cities Summit (WCS) and WCS Mayor’s Forum in Marina Bay, Singapore. 

The summit runs from 31 July to 3 August. 

She will be accompanied by fellow LPM Windhoek councillor Ivan Skrywer and Jennifer Comalie, the strategic executive for finance and customer care. 


2022-07-26  Edward Mumbuu

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