Dying for a home

19 August 2019 | Opinion

Many Namibians have, and still will, die before they ever have the chance to own a home. Studies have put the housing backlog as high as 300 000 units. This is a shocking scenario indeed. In January this year, President Hage Geingob said the living conditions of informal settlement residents should be declared a national humanitarian crisis. He was indeed correct and should be commended.

Data from the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia for 2018 showed that 995 000 people are living in shacks in urban centres.

The federation also said there are 308 informal settlements in urban areas, with about 228 000 shacks. But these statistics can never tell the full story of how ordinary Namibians are desperate for a place to call home. We have indeed written ad nauseam about the shack and housing issue, yet news stories also cannot capture what festers deep in the hearts of those who are still failing to secure a piece of their own motherland. As with most issues in Namibia, it is sad to see a country with such a small population struggling to get things right. This inability has indeed become the breeding ground for populism and the re-emergence of the feared ism of tribalism and the like. No one who has a home, a job and a family to nurture will indulge in name-calling or finger-pointing. We are getting the basics wrong; we are failing to give our people the very basic things they need to excel. Geingob summarised the issue in January like this: “Major population movements to cities are shifting the burden of poverty to urban areas. The persistent problem is that attempts to tackle urban poverty directly by creating jobs and providing public services usually attract more rural poor, and their migration wipes out any gains made.”

But for the hundreds of thousands on housing lists, soothing broken dreams, the dream of owning their own home must seem a million miles away.

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