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Confronting the elephant in the room

Fri, 22 April 2016 16:10
by Staff writer
News Flash

If there is one thing that Africans have mastered it is pretending that all is well even when nothing is working at all. Africans have become the type of people that could see that the father of the house is heading for doomsday and will never say it because apparently it is a taboo to confront the elders.
This is what we have gotten used to in the African continent that even when issues that need redress are not addressed, we pin our future on hope, forgetting that the same hope is a third cousin of fake promises.
Indeed promises have been the order of the day for the past year and it is becoming a norm for those that are eager to own homes in an economy where the locals have pretty much been squeezed out of the housing market by wealthy landlords who own vast tracts of land.
Last week the Acting Swapo Secretary, Veikko Nekundi took to social network to push the agenda enshrined in the Harambee Prosperity Plan of servicing 20 000 plots as the answer to homelessness. Alas, this comes at a time when promises of servicing at least 200 000 plots for the medium to low income earners were made in a meeting between the President and representatives of Affirmative Repositioning (AR).
Perhaps for Nekundi believing that the number given in the HPP is the one that is feasible is understandable because he also needs to be one of the agencies pushing forward the agenda. However reality is that the 20 000 proposed plots will not do anything to deal with the challenge of lack of housing in the country.
Here are stubborn facts about the housing situation in the country. About 500 000 of our inhabitants are living in shacks and the housing backlog stands at roughly 100 000, and that number will continue to grow because there is not much building happening to avert the housing backlog.
While it could be a challenge servicing 200 000 plots as Nekundi argues in the media that even countries like South Africa do not have capacity to handle such pressure, it is imperative to remember that there is a need to have Namibians in decent shelter and at this time it is something that needs to be done no matter what cost it comes with.
President Hage Geingob in his plan of servicing 20 000 plots made significant effort but it comes short of the reality on the ground. Politicians are generally known to under-promise in the hope of over-achieving. Let us hope it is the case also with Geingob on the housing saga. Government ought to zoom into the land appropriation laws and make it easy to acquire land for servicing at a cheaper rate. The current situation where a few land barons acquire as much land in towns through the auctioning system and within a few months build a block of flats and charge whatever they feel like will allow them to buy the next set of sleek wheels is not sustainable.
If the HPP is to deliver decent accommodation to Namibians it needs to start on crafting and amending laws that make it easy to acquire land. At the same time if the youth league leader believes that the idea of servicing 200 000 plots is not very feasible maybe reality is that there should be a solution to making sure that Namibians find a plan that works in servicing land.
It will be regrettable if politicians fall over each other to rubber stamp the agitations made by the HPP without facing the reality on the ground. While servicing 20 000 plots will go some way in alleviating the housing backlog it is just too little, hopefully not too late.
Servicing 20 000 plots against the backdrop of the huge housing backlog is a drop in the ocean and unfortunately will not solve the housing problem in the country. It is just naïve to believe so. We simply need a more vigorous plan and if the plan put on the ground so far will not serve us from the challenges that we are facing then we need to be bold enough to confront the elephant in the room.