Kombat residents protest against Katti

16 April 2019 | Local News

Kombat residents staged a demonstration at the settlement on Saturday to protest against new rentals introduced by a property management company, Kombat Village Properties, on behalf of the new owner, businessman Knowledge Katti.

Katti bought the entire village of Kombat about three years ago.

Residents say they are now forced to pay rent to Kombat Village Properties even though some of them have been paying off houses since the early 2000s with the understanding that they were buying these properties.

Some were in Windhoek last week to consult lawyers over these houses, which they claim they had bought from the previous owner, Ongopolo Mining and Processing.

Kombat Village Properties informed the residents in October last year that new rental agreements would be implemented “in line with transforming Kombat into a self-sustaining town”.

The new rental agreement came into effect in November with monthly rentals now set at N$2 750, excluding water and electricity. Many residents are refusing to sign the new agreements, saying the increase is “massive”.

Kombat Village Properties said those unable to pay the new rentals would have to find “alternative accommodation”.

“They are threatening and insulting us. They are grabbing our houses. We are not happy; we are voicing our anger,” said one resident, Magdalena Petrus.

She said many incidents of intimidation had been reported to the police at Kombat, but nothing was done.

Another resident, Johanna Shilongo, said she – alongside about 50 others – had been paying off her house since 2002.

Shilongo said she started working at Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL) in 1995 and later worked for Ongopolo, which bought the town's copper mine in 1999.

She said at the time mine employees only paid electricity and rent; water was free.

In 2001 Ongopolo sent out a notice informing workers that it was selling the Kombat houses and that employees would be given first option to buy.

Shilongo said the purchases did not go ahead because former Otjozondjupa governor Theophelus Eiseb and Otavi councillor Bartholomeus Shagheta advised that Kombat first had to be proclaimed as a town.

Kombat was eventually declared a township in May 2006, comprising 279 erven of which some were reserved as state property. In August that year it was again declared a settlement under the control of the Otjozondjupa regional council.

Weatherly International Plc took over Kombat that same year, in 2006.

Things have changed in the meantime.

“We are now paying those people working for Katti. We are not happy because Katti came in during 2015 or 2016 claiming he had bought the town, which is what we are disputing,” Shilongo said.

Katti's lawyer, Elia Shikongo, last week said the deed transferring ownership to Katti was issued some three or four years ago.

He would not say exactly how much Katti had paid for Kombat, except to say that it was a “back-to-back transaction where the value was exchanged in kind”.

Resident Shilongo feels these “rumours” of Katti having bought Kombat are “confusing”, saying the community demand documentary proof of this sale.

“We fail to understand how Kombat was sold to a private person while other people are staying there. We want to know from the government how this could have happened,” said the elderly Ernst Mburuu.

Mburuu said the residents have been sending letters to current Otjozondjupa governor Otto Iipinge and other councillors seeking their intervention, but to no avail.

“Why is this not a concern for the government? Why is the government not getting involved in this matter? They hear what is happening in Kombat but do not give a damn. No one is coming to listen to us,” Mburuu said.

Paying leases

Lawyer Shikongo says only two or three people have sales agreements for the houses they live in while the others have been paying rent all along.

He says many refuse to pay the rent and are encouraging others to do the same.

Shikongo says the residents have in fact been presented with the new ownership of Kombat, adding: “The issue of ownership came up as an excuse not to pay rent.”

He says 15 eviction summonses are being processed, while others have been given notice to pay or face eviction.