Migrating from reed houses to shacks an option for Aussenkehr - Councillor
KEETMASHOOP - With most residents living in fire prone reed houses at Aussenkehr, Karasburg West Constituency councilor, Paulus Ephraim, says the plan is now to allow residents to build shacks on designated places in the serviced area.
A privately-owned farm, Aussenkehr, has grown into a sprawling settlement of reed houses to accommodate thousands of migrant workers who relocated to the Grape Valley in search of greener pastures at various vineyards, where they are employed as grape pickers, sorters, and packers.
However, Aussenkehr, despite a booming billion-dollar industry, treats its workers like second class citizens: who do not have access to potable water; they do not have toilets, so they relieve themselves on the riverbanks; and many of them live in cramped dwellings made from reeds. Many grape companies maintained they are ready to construct houses for their workers, but cannot do so because the land is privately owned. Land owner, Dusan Vasiljevic, in 2011 donated 644 hectares to government in an effort to solve the housing problem, but not a single house has ever been built on this land by the grape farms that make hundreds of millions of dollars in profit, little of which has trickled back to the seasonal grape workers.
Although serviced, the area is also not yet connected to any water or power grid, but Ephraim informed New Era that there is now a new plan on the table, and people will be allocated erven as from early next year, adding that residents will be allowed to build shacks until they are able to build better structures, or until companies are able to come on board and build decent houses for them.
“People will be allowed to build shacks until such a time that they can afford brick houses, so for those saying it will not happen must take note that this housing issue takes long. We are talking about more than 35 000 people, and we do not have funds to address this problem,” he said.
General Manager of Namibia Grape Company (NGC), Gideon Nuunyuango, in an interview with New Era, admitted that the conditions that workers live in are not conducive, and more should be done to improve their living conditions.
“There is no secret about that; the living conditions of the employees is not a good one: there is no clean water, and they live in reed houses without proper toilet facilities,” he said.
He added that although companies are doing what they can, more can still be done, especially with the housing issue, saying most companies are ready to construct houses but cannot do so on private land, and the serviced area has no basic services yet.
He said the companies are committed to improving the lives of people, as long as government can meet them half way and bring services such as water and electricity to the donated area, noting that it has been a long wait for such services, and companies cannot build houses in an area without such services.
“The current area [that people occupy] is private, and you cannot develop fixed properties there because the land does not belong to you. In the donated area, the services are forever not coming; so, how long that will take, I do not know, but once there is water supply, companies, and specifically NGC, will start building houses in a short time,” he indicated.
2018-12-05 08:59:17 7 months ago