ACC dives in at Okahandja
Okahandja Home-Based Caregivers founding member Kathleen Uri-khos says they will not vacate a council property, amid allegations that a private renting business is being run with a council asset that was meant to assist HIV/Aids patients.
15 July 2019 | Local News
Erf 1246, from which the Okahandja Home-Based Caregivers operated, is said to have been rented out privately, since roughly 2009, according to sources.
The organisation, founded in 2004, aims to help HIV-positive patients, along with those who suffer from full-blown Aids, to live a better life. One of the founders, Susan de Beer, told Namibian Sun that when they started, there was no state-sponsored antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and the community in the town was suffering. The project had a soup kitchen, a vegetable garden and did outreaches to families grappling with the disease, along with education programmes.
A charity shop and a needlework project were also created.
While the deeds office could not locate the deed for the property, De Beer confirmed to Namibian Sun that the property, erf 1246, is owned by the municipality and all agreements were signed with the council. De Beer left the project in 2009 and would not discuss the matter further.
Namibian Sun understands that the property was provided to the charity free of charge.
At the centre of the storm is Kathleen Uri-khos, one of the founding members of the Okahandja Home-Based Caregivers, who also faces two charges of assault by threat in the town's magistrate's court, after she allegedly threatened two members of the Okahandja Residents Damage Control Committee (ORDCC), Basie Tjikune and Petrus Kampaku, at knifepoint on 21 January. That matter has been postponed to 19 September for her to secure private counsel.
Uri-khos is said to have leased out rooms on the premises to private individuals, while pocketing the rent. Namibian Sun spoke to one tenant on-site, who confirmed he had concluded an agreement with Uri-khos. Bank statements in the newspaper's possession also indicate that monthly payments, made in the names of various individuals, were deposited into the commercial bank account of the Okahandja Home-Based Caregivers, but were immediately withdrawn on the same day.
The ORDCC, on 5 July, laid a charge of theft by appropriation against Uri-khos. For months, the group has applied pressure to the municipality to intervene at the property. They also queried where the inventory, paid for by international donors, including private philanthropists, was. The property had fully-equipped offices, a clinic, as well as a functioning soup kitchen. Conferences were regularly held there, as well. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had funded N$85 000 in renovations and the fitting out of the property, Namibian Sun was informed. The property has two toilets, but no bathroom. Ostensibly, the separate offices are rented out as rooms. The soup kitchen, on the day of Namibia Sun's visit, was locked.
Interestingly, it appears as though the Okahandja council may have been aware of the tenants at the property. A letter of eviction, signed by Okahandja CEO Martha Mutilifa and dated 4 July, notes that Uri-khos is to remove her “tenants” by 14 July (yesterday), was seen by Namibian Sun.
“Council has decided, under resolution CM13.1.1/12/04/18 to terminate or issue a direct order of eviction to you, Home-Based Care committee, including all tenants residing at the abovementioned property on or before 14 July 2019 (yesterday). Consider this letter of eviction as the last reminder. Failure to vacate the premises will leave council with no option but to involve law-enforcement agencies.”
Mutilifa also makes mention of earlier notices of eviction sent to Uri-khos in the letter. The earlier notices Namibian Sun has seen are dated 9 November last year and 24 April this year.
On Sunday, Uri-khos told Namibian Sun that “they will not vacate”, adding that the police have no right to throw them out of the property and that they will do so “only with a court order”. She questioned why the CEO had not contacted her for a meeting to discuss the matter and said that there is a “political issue” behind the matter.
Well-placed police sources told Namibian Sun that the matter is too complex and should be investigated by the ACC. The file was handed over on Friday.
It is expected that once the ACC completes its investigations, individuals may be charged.