NHE fails to build houses

13 September 2017 | Infrastructure

President Hage Geingob is accused of having “misled” the Namibian nation by claiming during his 2017 state of the nation address (SONA) that more than 5 000 houses had been built with public money during the previous financial year.

During his SONA address in April, Geingob boasted that 5 554 houses had been completed nationwide in the first year of implementation of the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which was in 2016.

However, the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), which has as its core mandate the construction of affordable housing, has acknowledged that not a single new house has been built by the parastatal since the departure of beleaguered former CEO Vinson Hailulu in August 2015.

President Geingob's Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) had estimated that 20 000 houses would have been built, 27 000 plots serviced and 50 000 rural toilets installed to replace the bucket system by the end of 2017.

NHE spokesperson Eric Libongani this week confirmed that the parastatal had “not executed its own housing project” since around August 2015, admitting that the NHE had not embarked on any new housing projects since then.

However, Libongani said the NHE had been “working towards a new housing project model through Request for Proposals (RFP) in which the NHE will engage with private-sector companies in financing and construction of houses across Namibia”.

He said 54 bidders had so far submitted proposals and the first phase of this construction project was at an advanced stage.



Last year, the NHE announced that the RFP model would deliver 5 000 houses at an estimated cost of N$2 billion. By then, a number of Chinese and other companies had submitted their bids.

Libongani said during the first phase of the project the NHE envisaged the delivery of more than 400 houses. It is not yet clear who the bidders are.

NHE insiders who preferred anonymity said they were embittered about the slow delivery of housing and the stoppage of the mass housing project. They said the NHE during Hailulu's tenure had built 3 500 houses under the mass housing project in about 10 to 11 months.

“If the project had been properly funded and not politicised, the NHE might have been in a position to build as many as 20 000 houses,” said one, adding: “Africa is the enemy of its own development. We value politics more than we value economics.”

The insiders acknowledged that the mass housing project did experience “teething problems” but insisted that it nonetheless employed 4 880 workers who on average earned at least N$4 000 per month, which they said meant that around 25 000 people directly benefitted from the programme.



Unallocated houses

The government, and in particular the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, is said to be failing to distribute the houses that the NHE had built before the middle of 2015.

At the end of July this year, a whopping 87% of credit-linked houses bought through loans were unoccupied; only 31% of heavily subsidised social housing was occupied.

President Geingob made mention of this in his 2017 SONA address when he noted that “some houses remained unoccupied for too long due to the bureaucratic process involved in the transfer of ownership of land”.

Geingob then mentioned that his administration was following up on these cases and working with partners to expedite the process.

That is what the president said on 12 April, and on 24 April his office sent a letter to the NHE with a request to develop and submit an action plan to deal with unallocated housing units built under the mass housing project.

Geingob had already communicated with the minister of urban and rural development, Sophia Shaningwa, on the unallocated houses in January and Shaningwa informed her staff to expedite the allocation of the houses.

It is understood that the ministry has taken over the role from the NHE to allocate the houses.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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