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Tsumeb evictions a 'serious challenge'

47 plots for 3 000 evicted Tsumeb residents
Despite years of negotiations between the owner of Tsumeb's Endombo compound and various other parties, negotiations have failed and many residents are now homeless.
Elvira Hattingh
The recent eviction of residents from the privately-owned Endombo compound in Tsumeb has created "serious challenges" due to a lack of alternative accommodation in the town.

This is according to Victoria Kapenda, chief executive officer of the Tsumeb municipality.

Kapenda said this following the eviction of around 39 families, pursuant to a court order at the start of September, with more evictions expected to follow.

"This is a complicated matter that has been blown out of proportion from the beginning. It is a matter between a landowner and his tenants. The tenants, unfortunately, did not comply with the rules, which led to these consequences," Kapenda told Namibia Media Holdings on Thursday.

She said the municipality only has 47 plots available for the approximately 3 000 Endombo residents facing eviction.

"There are a total of 265 households living there, of which 39 were evicted on 5 September. The eviction continues and more households will soon be evicted," she warned.

Their choice

Kapenda says some of the available plots have been allocated to families still living in Endombo. Among those already evicted, only seven have had plots allocated to them.

She encouraged residents to enter discussions with the owner of Endombo, Christo Groenewald, to reach an agreement with him so that they can stay at the compound.

"Unfortunately, we do not have enough land available for them where they can live. The other thing is, the place where they currently live is private property.

"Those to whom we have allocated plots – they must go there. If they don't want to, that's their choice. It all depends on them," Kapenda said.

Owner

"After the eviction on 5 September, around 60 people decided to move. The rest have until 23 September to move, but in the meantime, things are calm again at the complex, and residents are offering their cooperation," Groenewald said.

"Most residents are not angry. On the contrary, many came to talk to me in the meantime and agreed with the expulsion.

"Every day, more people move out. However, many say that they have nowhere else to go."

Groenewald has frequently been in the news in recent years about the families facing eviction, many of whom have allegedly refused to pay rent since 2017.

He said he rented out about 180 units on the site. "It actually went well all these years, up to and including 2017."

Background

Groenewald said when he decided to raise the rent by 5% in 2017, some people, who were dissatisfied with his decision, began to question his ownership of the property.

At that time, the rent stood at N$560 for a room of about 45 m2.

Groenewald showed his title deed but claimed that the group had by then incited the residents against him and also convinced them to stop paying rent.

He then sought legal help to obtain an eviction order against, initially, 17 occupants.

After the case dragged on for a year in the Tsumeb Magistrate's Court, he turned to the High Court for an eviction order against 20 residents.

In September 2020, the court declared Groenewald as the rightful owner of the property, and an eviction order against 20 people was granted.

However, the respondents indicated that they wanted to file an appeal, and as a result, the eviction order was put on hold for 90 days.

"However, they failed to appeal, which means the order is final," said Groenewald.

Alternative failure

However, he explained that shortly before the evictions were due to be carried out in December 2020, he was approached by politicians with a plan for the government to buy the property.

By August 2021, urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni let it be known, however, that Cabinet had rejected the request.

"A request was made to me to give time until December 2021 so that the Tsumeb municipality could move the people. However, this did not happen, and by January I continued the eviction process," said Groenewald.

He was then approached again by local politicians to prevent the evictions, but when nothing had happened by April this year, he decided to continue with the eviction.

Ownership

Groenewald became the sole owner of the property in 2007 when his partner decided to retire and he bought him out.

Despite the court decision in 2020, several parties, including the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) as well as the Workers Advice Centre (WAC), have questioned Groenewald's ownership of Endombo.

This was done in public letters to, among others, President Hage Geingob, as well as the minister of justice.

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Namibian Sun 2022-12-04

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