TUTALENI HOUSING ROW DRAGS ON
A PERMANENT solution to the ongoing row between residents of the Tutaleni informal settlement and the Walvis Bay Municipality appears more elusive by the day as residents remain adamant with their demands to purchase their residential units.
The housing project was initiated by the Walvis Bay Municipality in an effort to curb the growing number of shacks at the town, a concept that earned the Municipality the Dubai Award for Best Practices in 2002. The project involves the construction of lowbudget housing units on open land, now commonly referred to as Tutaleni. The units are then allocated to former shack dwellers in the community.
The chronology of events since Tutaleni came to be however depicts what seems to be a total deviation by both residents and the Municipality from the initial modest aim of the housing project. Pitted on one side are angry residents who are irate at not having the power to purchase their houses and are forced to remain mere tenants as per Municipal stipulation. Residents allege that the Municipality never informed them of this condition and are adamant that it wants to intentionally prohibit them from owning property.
The Municipality has however over the years dismissed the allegations as untrue, noting that residents were informed that acquisition of the units was on a lease contract and not on â€œownership contractâ€ as they claim. Various meetings where emotions usually ran high have been held amongst residents in the past. During the last Regional Council and Local Author ity elections, residents took to the streets of the harbour town threatening to boycott the elections if their demands to purchase their respective properties were not met.
At an emotionally charged gathering last Sunday it was evident that the residents were not giving up on their demands despite the Municipalityâ€™s insistence that such properties are not for sale. What appeared to aggravate the situation is the Municipalityâ€™s warning of evictions of those either owing rental charges or for contravention of clauses in the agreement. One resident noted that she now faces eviction from her Tutaleni unit after she got married and moved to her husbandâ€™s house in Kuisebmond.
She claims she left her unit for her children as the house in Kuisebmond was too small to accommodate all of them. To her surprise, she related, she was issued with a monthâ€™s eviction notice to voluntarily vacate the Tutaleni premises or face forced removal. The Municipality said allowing residents to purchase their property would defeat the purpose of the initiative because the project aims at assisting those who cannot afford other forms of decent housing. This, the Municipality says, is why residents are encouraged to give up their property once they have secured alternative accommodation or are in a better position to do so. It also emerged that some residents are subletting their units, which is in contravention of clause number five of the lease agreement which Namibian Sun has in its possession.
The agreement states that â€œThe lessee shall not transfer this agreement nor may the property or part thereof be subleased.â€ Another bone of contention is that despite Tutaleniâ€™s aim to eliminate the shack problem at Walvis Bay, residents are now cashing in on shacks which they have constructed around their units. Committees have been established by the Tutaleni residents to address the issue with the Municipality since 2003.
Once efforts to convince the Municipality to sell off the units fail, such committees fade into oblivion, only for another committee to be formed in its place. Tutaleni has 1 093 residential erven divided amongst families of approximately four people per household.