30 September 2003

Namibia: Katutura Residents Face Losing Their Houses Due to Unpaid Bills

Windhoek — CONSTANCIA Nanus stares numbly ahead with a deep sadness in her eyes, having recently lost her house as a result of an unpaid municipal bill.

She has had to be hospitalised for stress and anxiety because of a bill of N$14 000 she couldn't pay - despite the fact that she has had no water or electricity in her home for the last six years.

Katrina Jason walks with difficulty and cannot work.

Not yet a pensioner, she needs to find other means to pay for her house which the Windhoek Municipality will put up for auction next month.

Constancia and Katrina are only two of more than 20 Katutura residents who last week told the media about their plight - having their houses sold for unpaid municipal bills.

Many of them say they are in the dark about what they are supposed to be paying for, because most of their houses are not even built to facilitate water and electricity supplies.

"We won't vote if that's the case. Our children don't even get jobs anymore with all the foreigners here taking over," said one irate resident.

Johannes Hendricks heads the Ada-/Gui Organisation which tries to assist residents in negotiating with the Municipality in cases such as these.

"They have no furniture. Their houses are falling apart. Now their houses are being sold on auction with not even a reserved price," said Hendricks.

The disgruntled group has now turned to the newly-revived Republican Party (RP) for assistance.

At a press briefing at the end of last week, RP leader Henk Mudge said: "The Windhoek Municipality is not perceived to act in the interest of the residents. It is not transparent, it is led by political masters".

Mudge questioned why the Municipality finds it necessary to subsidise a multi-million dollar enterprise such as the Ramatex Textile Factory, but the City's poor are having their houses sold for the non-payment of services some of them do not even receive.

"How can you tell residents the City does not have enough water, and then you allow a textile factory to build?" The former Khomas Regional Councillor also lashed out at the Municipality for allowing Government to get away with the construction of the new State House complex.

He said the project must be stopped and be moved to a more appropriate location where it will not interfere with the activities of ordinary residents.

"The Municipality has a misconception of responsibility. It is there to serve the residents, not to be prescribed to on what to do," Mudge said.

The RP is now requesting the City to come up with more workable solutions to prevent people from losing their homes for unpaid municipal services.

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