WANTED: N$1bn for shack relief

Informal settlements have been described as a national humanitarian crisis.

30 January 2019 | Infrastructure

City of Windhoek officials estimate that at least 131 000 residents live in slum conditions in the city's 87 informal settlements and propose that an injection of just over N$1 billion from central government could help them start an immediate intervention to address the national humanitarian crisis of informal settlement living conditions and its explosive growth.

This recommendation formed part of a City of Windhoek presentation made yesterday during a State House meeting called by President Hage Geingob, who was joined by several ministers and advisers to meet with City officials in order to address the country's unfolding humanitarian crisis of informal settlements.

Geingob stressed the need for action and accountability for promises made, highlighting the fact that urban housing and informal settlements form part and parcel of the resolutions taken following last year's land conference.

“We have a crisis where human beings are staying in conditions that are unbearable,” he said yesterday.

He added that after the land conference, the government officially declared the informal settlement crisis as a serious national humanitarian crisis.

He said while the situation has not been declared as a national state of emergency, “it's a disaster for human development and therefore we should address it.”

City officials yesterday warned that without interventions now, the situation could spiral out of control with estimates that the population within the informal settlements of Windhoek are set to double in less than a decade. A presentation by the municipality's Faniel Maanda showed that in terms of a suggested financial approach during the “local disaster declaration period”, it is crucial to ensure availability of and a steady flow of financial resources.

One suggestion is to request, for phase one funding, just over N$1 billion from the government to intervene immediately in at least 26 of the 87 informal settlements, while the City of Windhoek covers the administrative costs.

No further details were provided during the brief presentation at yesterday's meeting while the media was present.

Not helpful

A City manager yesterday briefly told Namibian Sun that the recent deep cuts to the proposed capital expenditure budget of more than N$600 million, of which N$83 was approved only, in December, following a long delay by urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga, has had a “definite impact” on addressing the crisis of informal settlements and related projects.

“There are land delivery projects that were part of the budget plans that cannot proceed”, and had to be shelved, he said.

The official added that the meeting yesterday offered the City a chance to “say the pressure on the City and the resources availed to us are just being stretched to a limit”.

He said the research presented yesterday by the City showed clearly that informal settlements would double in less than a decade and pose a major threat to the city's stability.

“All statistics indicate that unless there is a serious and big committed engagement to assist and complement what the City is doing, we are heading for bad times. As we sit, we can't manage this problem now. We need to put a plan on the table to at least have projects in place to at least arrest the situation.”

Working hard

Yesterday, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the issue of informal settlements was at the top of her agenda as part of the government's efforts to finalise the draft action plan to implement the land conference resolutions.

She described the conditions in which people live in informal settlements as “dehumanising and it is contradictory to the commitments we have made, not only nationally but internationally.”

The prime minister said the government was also talking to private institutions to formulate strategies going forward, including the Shack Dwellers Federation who have shown that houses can be delivered “at a fraction of the cost” and that government is looking at alternative options such as flexible land tenure options.

Attorney-general Albert Kawana praised the Shack Dwellers Federation's successes in providing housing to low-income residents, and proposed that the government could consider assisting the federation, which has done “much better” than other institutions, including parastatals, over the years in finding effective solutions.

Kawana further suggested to City of Windhoek officials, in order to address questions around the exact make-up of residents living in informal settlements, to conduct a survey to identify “who is who” in informal settlement areas. Windhoek mayor Muesee Kazapua yesterday urged leaders to “speak the same language” and to recognise the “reality on the ground” and the numerous challenges involved with the informal housing crisis.

He warned that unless informal settlements and their explosive growth were addressed urgently, the city would “become ungovernable.”

Khomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua, who met with Kuugongelwa-Amadhila on the issue of informal settlements on Monday, yesterday said “the face of Windhoek's informal settlements is very ugly.” She added however that the challenges “are so overwhelming that we are unable to manage in terms of the lack of resources”, and listed additional challenges that “compound the problems we face.”

McLeod-Katjirua said eradicating informal settlements would also require addressing “attitude problems” of residents, including vandalism, hygiene, and the misuse of free services in these areas.


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