SWAKOPMUND/OMARURU - The Arandis, Omaruru and Usakos town councils are under pressure as residents of the three towns are grabbing land.
This is because they feel their respective councils failed them when it comes to the provision of land.
On Saturday, close to 50 Omaruru residents grabbed land close to the Welwitschia location after efforts to engage the municipality proved fruitless.
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 charged.
Domingo added that they had engaged the municipality for many years regarding the availability of land for residents in the town, but they only received empty promises, while municipal workers got two or more pieces of land. She said as residents, they are prepared to service the land themselves to build their houses. They have also spoken to the regional and central government leaders in a bid to solve the issue, but to no avail.
Erongo governor Neville Andre had to intervene in a showdown between the Arandis town council and its residents who demanded land.
Speaking on behalf of fellow residents, Helena Orus on Thursday told New Era that the delivery of land in the town has been too slow, and mainly benefits developers whom the council sells unserviced land to.
“Our sisters and brothers died for this country, yet many of us are landless. But we see people getting land around us. Hence, we demand unserviced land to service it the same way the shack dwellers have been doing for years,” she said.
Arandis CEO Stanley Norris, however, said council has not denied anyone land, but that they have a waiting list of 195 people. The council indicated that they do not have enough serviced land and do not want to allocate unserviced land, as every resident is entitled to a dignified home.
“Council was elected by the people, and the capital budget is not enough to service the land. It would cost about N$35 million to service 300 erven, which is the closest we can get our people affordable land without looking for money. As a result, council opted to rezone a public space to a residential area. This will allow services to be installed at the lowest price to accommodate low-income earners,” Norris explained during a meeting on Thursday.
Erongo governor, however, expressed his disappointment in the service delivery of the Arandis town council, saying that there is no proper consultation nor open communication channels.
“I was very disappointed... while listening to all the challenges and problems from the community, I observed poor customer service from the town council. Please speak to your people, and avail yourselves to the residents. Don’t sit in the offices; speak to the people, and make time for the people. Had you done this, we would not have had this problem today,” Andre said.
Residents of Usakos last week also handed over a petition to mayor Irene Simeon-Kurtz, airing their frustration on the slow land delivery at the town.
They highlighted discrepancies in the process, saying some people are double-dipping while the actual beneficiaries and the youth are disadvantaged by the process.
“Some people already have houses and plots, and yet are awarded again by council. This is not how we want to live for the rest of our lives. We elected this council and want them to address our plight by availing land to the residents, including the youth of Usakos,” the group appealed.
Simeon-Kurtz reassured the petitioners that the council would conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.
She told residents that their concerns will be addressed during the next council meeting.
The demand for land and affordable housing has been a bone of contention over the years in the country, as many Namibians found themselves living in informal settlements and backyard shacks due to the shortage of serviced land.
The country is said to have an estimated housing backlog of around 300 000 units.