SWAKOPMUND - The land grab which took place in Omaruru over the weekend could have been politically motivated, and exacerbated by the relocation of over 30 families from the town’s single quarters.
These are the views of Omaruru municipality CEO Valentinus Sindongo.
Close to 50 Omaruru residents grabbed land close to Welwitschia Location on Saturday after efforts to engage the municipality proved fruitless.
The residents said they fall under the Omaruru Homeless People’s Association, and have not been able to get land to build homes.
Group chairperson Nambee Domingo told New Era that despite being born and raised in Omaruru, they have lived in their parents’ homes for over 40 years, while the municipality allocates land to employees and their relatives who are not from the area.
“We are tired of waiting for them to do whatever they want to do. Now, we want them to listen to us. We are not grabbing; we are occupying our ancestral land, which belongs to us,” she stated.
However, Sindongo indicated during a telephonic interview with New Era that he had consulted the Omaruru Homeless People’s Association’s committee prior to the illegal land grab.
The recently appointed executive acknowledged that there is a challenge with the provision of serviced land in the town, and that the council is in the process of addressing it. Some of the people have been on a waiting list since 2010.
Sindongo said the town has been experiencing an increase in criminal activities, especially in the surroundings of the old single quarters, which resulted in the council relocating 30 families who had been living and conducting business there.
“Initially, residents also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that people living in the single quarters received free water while the rest of the community had to pay for basic services. Consequently, Extensions 5 and 6 on Kapekaha Road were allocated to families which had been living and conducting business in the single quarters,” he added.
The process, Sindongo said, was not easy, especially in deciding who to relocate and who to allocate housing and land to first, as there is a long beneficiary list.
“But we finally managed to relocate those out of the single quarters’ structures, which are currently being demolished. We also revisited the waiting list, which we identified through the Build Together Programme, which has been idle for some time due to several delays,” he observed.
Sindongo said there is high housing demand in the town, and the municipality is currently working on a strategic plan to address the issue. The council has indeed signed an agreement to produce 1 700 erven at Extension 12, which is a significant milestone for them.
The CEO said he had engaged with the Omaruru Homeless People’s Association’s committee in September and told them that their issues are valid. The group was also told that council would look into their demands once the joint trade expo hosted by Karibib, Omaruru and Usakos had ended.
“I told them before the land grab that we are addressing the housing issue. But to our surprise, they went ahead and grabbed land. Some of these things are politically motivated and have nothing to do with us delivering land, as the changes the council is making are visible,” he continued.
Sindongo said a community meeting is expected to take place in due course to discuss the issue, as some of the people have been applying for land since 2015. Others, he said, are motivated by pure greed, and are grabbing land despite already owning homes and erven.
Erongo governor Neville Andre likewise expressed concern over the increasing land grab incidents. He urged local authorities and council employees to be transparent and engage with residents to avoid such issues.
“These types of issues, especially when it comes to land, create a chain reaction, and we want to avoid that at all costs. Our residents should also guard against using it for political gain. Organise, register yourself, and approach the council so that we can also look into flexible land tenure. This is one way for you to become a landowner,” he added. Andre promised to engage the relevant ministry to address the land issue without people resorting to land grabs.