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AR threatens to take housing/land matters in own hands

By: Kelvin Chiringa

A mob of youths under the Affirmative Repositioning banner almost brought the Windhoek central business district to a halt this week Monday as they marched for the municipality which it has given a six-month notice to hand over empty Otjomuise houses to the homeless, or they would do it themselves.

Reading their memorandum of demands to city chief executive officer, Robert Kahimise, the movement said it was scandalous that despite 300 000 people living in informal settlements, the city is home to 300 empty houses.

“It is an indication that the leadership collective of the City of Windhoek and government involved in this housing project has no sense of urgency in dealing with this housing crisis,” the AR told Kahimise.

They have also demanded the completion of services of the 300 Goreangab plots, an exercise last done five years ago according to the AR, failure of which they would begin the final process themselves.

The City has also been arm-twisted to positively respond to the 14 000 applications for land made five years go by the landless people.

That it has taken such a long time for the process to be completed is an indication that the city is not concerned with resolving the housing issue, the movement also said.

“The City of Windhoek continues to embrace colonial urban settlement policies. These policies have successfully resulted in the segregation of the poor and the rich, white and black. This continuation of the colonial urban settlement has resulted in the creation of extremely rich and poor neighborhoods, as a result, Windhoek became a city with the most expensive housing prices in Africa,” they said.

The urban and rural development ministry last week issued a statement in a detailed response to the houses under question.

“The Government and other parties involved are doing everything possible to expedite the remaining processes so that the project can reach practical completion and for the houses to be ready for occupation in the shortest possible time,” it said.

The mob headed to parliament, under a police escort, where it presented a bill titled the Regulation of Land Ownership by Foreigners Bill to the speaker of parliament, Peter Katjavivi.

The speaker wanted the handover to be done hurriedly, much to the annoyance of the young people who further protested when he began fingering his phone during the reading out of the bill.

A heavy police presence also punctuated parliament gardens where both parties met midst protest songs and slogan chants led by recently detained activist Dimbulukeni Nauyoma.

The bill seeks to control and ban the ownership of communal and commercial land by foreign nationals.

This was also mixed by anti-Chinese sentiment which was boldly expressed by the marching youths.

According to the bill, which the AR said should have been passed as far back as the 90s, foreigners will lease land for developmental activities under an arrangement in which a Namibian partner will own not less than 51% ownership.

The bill is reminiscent of the indigenization law passed by Robert Mugabe for Zimbabwe which required ceding of 51% of all the businesses in the country into local African hands.

It attracted general outrage from investors and is currently being scrapped by the Emerson Mnangagwa-led administration.

In the meantime, the activists said the call to expedite the land allocation process would be the last warning to the city.

Kelvin Chiringa

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