Land moratorium births slums at Okahandja

26 February 2020 | Local News

Development at Okahandja has been at a standstill for close to five years since a moratorium on land sales was imposed in 2015, which has also suffocated municipal cash flow at the town.

This moratorium on land sales has also led to the creation of two informal settlements inundated with desperate, land-hungry Namibians. In a wide-ranging interview with Namibian Sun, Okahandja mayor Congo Hindjou said the situation has tied their hands and reduced council's bank account to a piggybank filled with “crumbs” collected from rates and taxes. “I fail to understand how the (urban and rural development) ministry wants Okahandja to operate without land sales. We are doing our best to finalise this issue and send reports to help them conclude the forensic report.

We even asked them to allow us to sell land with conditions, but nothing.

“That is why you see people mushrooming in informal settlements,” he said.

Hindjou said he has turned away more than 10 companies, including foreign investors, because their pleas to sell land with conditions had been turned down.

“I have stopped counting. We had people who wanted to set up a tissue factory, a tyre shop, even private schools and spare part companies. We even had people who wanted to set up a dry port here for their containers from Walvis Bay, because we are close to the Botswana border,” said Hindjou.

There had also been a solar plant on the cards, which would have given the town a means of collecting revenue, but this too has fallen by the wayside as a result of the moratorium.

Even public-private partnerships (PPP) for the servicing of about 300 residential plots in the Veddersdal location has been brought to a standstill.

“You see, any municipality cannot rely on revenue collection. With that you can only pay your small service providers such as security companies, but what about the service delivery to the people of the town? Other towns are selling land to give services such as taps in informal settlements, road infrastructure and buildings. And there is no way we can do that with revenue collection,” Hindjou said.

For the past five years, Okahandja's saving grace has been an ad hoc investment account used for emergencies.

According to Hindjou, they deposit N$200 000 on a monthly basis into the account and have, to date, taken about N$8 to N$9 million to pay salaries.

Faeces and flies

Amid this administrative crisis, residents of the Vyf Rand Kamp and Vergenoeg informal settlements are forced to live next to garbage dumps covered with faeces and urine.

They are also denied access to water as communal taps have dried up.

According to Bartholomeus Kampungu, a resident of Vyf Rand Kamp, they wake up at 03:00 to collect water for household purposes.

And since there are no toilets, people are forced to use the nearby river or the bushes.

“Little children, as you can see, cannot go to the river, so they relieve themselves here between the houses,” Kampungu said.

Then there are those who simply cannot afford to buy the N$300 water card.

“The tap is broken most of the time, then we must go to Oshitanda, which is about five kilometres away from here. As a result, most of us get to work late because we arrive very late from the water tap,” Kampungu said.

Another resident Paulus Matthew said children and elderly often have diarrhoea because of the unhygienic situation at the settlement.

Attempts to get hold of minister of rural and urban development Peya Mushelenga were unsuccessful.

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