Towns struggle to provide land

A government moratorium on land sales has sparked anger at Okahandja, while Gobabis residents are grabbing land in an informal settlement.

22 January 2019 | Government

Frustrated Okahandja residents on Friday vented their frustration with a moratorium on the sale of unserviced erven at the town, saying it is unfair toward the community.

The Okahandja Committee, a group that fights for social justice, said the ban also affected the town’s economy.

A moratorium was placed on the sale of unserviced land in August 2015 due to irregular land transactions by the town council.

In 2017, then minister of urban and rural development Sophia Shaningwa said the government would only lift the ban once an audit had been done.

In an interview with Nampa on Friday, Patricia Hawaes, the group’s secretary, spoke out against the moratorium.

“The moratorium is not fair towards the community. The community also votes for the leaders out there, so I would say the leaders who were elected should fight for the people, really!” she said.

The moratorium has also put a strain on the municipality, as it has to do without income from land sales.

A senior member of the Okahandja municipal council, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the council was equally affected.

“We are actually being crucified for sins we didn’t commit. If you can’t sell or lease land, you can’t succeed as a local authority,” the councillor said.

Urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga could not be reached for comment. Detailed questions sent to the ministry were not answered either.

Illegal occupation

At Gobabis, the municipality has warned residents against illegal occupation of land, saying that those found guilty of such an offence would be punished severely.

The municipality’s CEO, Ignatius Thudinyane, said the council was struggling to curtail a sudden surge in unlawful occupation, especially in informal areas.

“People are seen clearing land on which they erect corrugated-iron structures almost on a daily basis,” he said.

The situation was worse in the Canaan C informal settlement, where such unlawful occupation had become the norm, the CEO said.

Thudinyane said the council lost a lot of revenue because of illegal land grabs, as such land could have been sold for profit.

“We will not allow lawlessness to prevail in an environment where laws and regulations are in place. Those guilty of this practice are being dealt with and we will continue doing so until law and order is restored,” he said.

Exploitation

Another worrying trend at Canaan C is an increase in people who live in more affluent residential areas but erect shacks in the informal settlement which they lease to desperate low-income earners. Others operate shebeens in the settlement.

People from Windhoek and other towns are reportedly also flocking to Gobabis to set up these illegal structures, Thudinyane said.

The CEO said land in the informal areas is meant for the unemployed or those with meagre incomes.

“We are aware of this practice [leasing]. Gobabis cannot become a haven for every person to just grab land and do as he pleases; there are laws in place that need to be adhered to,” he said.

Thudinyane added that the municipality had started removing illegal settlers in September 2018.

“We want to prevent new shacks from being built unlawfully on municipal land, while we deal with those that have been occupying the land illegally for years,” he said.

The CEO said people from rural areas flock to Gobabis in the hope of finding jobs there, and end up in informal settlements when such opportunities fail to materialise. – Nampa

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