Shacks 'election ploy' blasted

The president has been slammed for his 'sudden' concern about informal settlements.

31 January 2019 | Government

President Hage Geingob and Windhoek mayor Muesee Kazapua have both come under blistering attack following a media briefing at State House on Tuesday dealing with the hundreds of thousands people living in slum-like conditions throughout Namibia.

Geingob was even chided on social media for his decision in 2002 to quit former president Sam Nujoma's cabinet, after he had been demoted from prime minister to local government minister, where could have contributed to solving Namibia's housing crisis.

The head of state's bona fides were also questioned, given that it is an election year, and he has only lately chosen to speak out about the shack “humanitarian crisis”.

Geingob has denied that Tuesday's media briefing was an election ploy.

Kazapua, on the other hand, was blasted for calling for a forensic audit to determine whether the shacks actually belonged to those living in them, saying that many of the so-called elite own shacks.

City of Windhoek officials estimate that at least 131 000 residents live in slum-like conditions in Windhoek's informal settlements, while data from the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia for 2018 indicated that there are 995 000 people living in shacks in 308 informal settlements across the country.

Former journalist and vocal Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) supporter Nico Smit Junior said on Facebook: “Did you know? In 2002 when former president Sam Nujoma demoted Hage Geingob from prime minister, he (Nujoma) appointed Geingob as minister of regional and local government, housing and rural development, but Geingob believed this post to be beneath him and he then left for the United Nations.”

“So if informal settlements are so important to Geingob, why did he not take the job that Nujoma gave him in 2002 and back then declared the issue a crisis? It is an election year, and we must be mindful of 'leaders' trying to score cheap political points.”

Social activist Abes Kaibeb said the president's concern was an election gimmick.

“What I do not understand is that those corrugated-iron shacks have been standing around Namibia for years, but Geingob was not bothered. He was minster of so many portfolios and in the prime minister's chair for how long, and he did nothing,” he said.

According to Kaibeb the president paid no special attention to informal settlements during his tenure as head of state so far and another five years will change nothing.

“How do they want to get rid of the shacks? The mass housing they started was the biggest mess. And we know the government has no money to pay for schools; where will they get the money to replace the shacks?” he asked.

Political commentator Dr Henning Melber tweeted: “Shacks existed when Geingob became prime minister in 1990 and informal settlements grew ever since then.

“It took him quite a long time, including close to four years as president, to feel 'offended' by their existence.”

Geingob, who declared informal settlements a humanitarian crisis his New Year's message, repeated this statement on Tuesday.

“We have a crisis where human beings are staying in conditions that are unbearable. Some are even security officers who come and guard us in the luxury areas where we are staying. A person who would come from that condition, how will their mental state be? And they also have guns,” Geingob said.

Responding to Kazapua's call for a shack audit, Melber tweeted: “Well, the rich folks in the posh suburbs may own the shacks but they certainly do not live in them! This simply testifies to the class society in which the haves exploit the have-nots at the margins unscrupulously even further. Does the mayor not get that? It's disgusting.”

Affirmative Repositioning (AR) leader Job Amupanda suggested that the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) be called in to acquaint the mayor with the findings of a publication titled 'Poverty Dynamics in Namibia'.

According to AR the mayor's comment revealed his ignorance of the conditions in which the poor live.

Amupanda is perturbed that the City plans to spend millions on a forensic audit instead of using the money to solve the actual problem and provide housing to shack dwellers.

He added that the cost of such a forensic audit could easily build more than 100 low-cost houses for the poor.

“This is not surprising because it is clear that the City of Windhoek did not come with any clear solution to engage, but merely went to State House like congregants going to the church, waiting to receive the holy words from a charismatic reverend.

“Such is the extent to which the state of land and housing in the country in general and in Windhoek in particular has degenerated. It is very clear that there is no clear solution in sight from these self-serving and self-glorifying elites. We are not idiots and we understand that all these are mere political gimmicks in an election year,” Amupanda said in a statement.


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