8 May 2012

Namibia: Tug of War Threatens Housing Group

Windhoek — Confusion is reigning over whether elections for a new leadership for the Twahangana self-help housing group scheme, in Katutura's Greenwell Matongo, were properly constituted or not.

One faction is adamant that the recently held elections were in fact illegal and therefore null and void. About two weeks ago, one faction of the group held a meeting where, amongst other things, it was decided that elections for a new leadership should be held in June.

The decision came after the current leadership allegedly failed to live up to the expectations of members of the group. The constitution of the group supposedly dictates that elections be held every year. However, no elections were held since 1998, when the housing group scheme was established one faction claims.

As a result, the group has apparently lagged behind with developmental projects, while paying for land services and erven. According to Johannes Palata, a member of the Twahangana self-help housing group scheme, members are unhappy about the way the chairperson, Anna Iyambo, is running the group.

He explained that the group consists of 250 paid-up members who have not benefited regarding the land they occupy since 2002. Allegations are also rife that Iyambo claims ownership of the Twahangana land for herself.

On numerous occasions, Iyambo is said to have re-sold land already paid for to new members causing strife and anger between buyers.

"The current leadership didn't bring about any change. The members of Twahangana want change of leadership in order to work with the City of Windhoek and the government to reduce the degree of poverty here," Palata told New Era. He said people want to pay their money directly to the municipality instead of paying to members of the current committee. Instead of holding elections for the selection of a new leadership, Iyambo apparently appoints her fellow committee members.

"People are tired, every month she appoints her own committee members. People want to choose their own leaders," said Palata. When the land was fully paid off in 2002, Iyambo apparently started asking people to pay rates and taxes.

However, when contacted for comment, Iyambo denied the allegations, providing this reporter with documents which purportedly support her position. Iyambo said she started the group with the aim to buy land for the poor. She also explained that some people within the group are not cooperative and do not work with her and the rest of the members of the committee for the development of the land.

At one point, one member of the opposing faction went as far as collecting money from group members, which he used for his own gain, according to Iyambo.

A case of corruption (case number: 588/2010) was opened against him.

Iyambo, with the support of her fellow committee members, told New Era that the group consists of 250 individuals who all occupy one plot. When the land was bought, it was not developed nor demarcated, she explained. "We were told to service our own land," she said.

But, some people do not want to work together for the joint development of the land, she insisted. The squabbles in the group, she maintained, stem from jealousy amongst some members.

"Some of those who are fighting are not even from Twahangana," she said. She said the group purchased the land in a record eight months, a process which was supposed to take eight years. Asked if elections will take place in June, Iyambo veered off the question saying "they have no right to use the name of my group. There is somebody behind them. Everything they do is illegal".

She added that she only learnt about the elections through the media and that the elections are illegal. She added that the committee would take up the matter with their lawyer and the Samora Machel Constituency Councilor, Absai Angula.

When contacted for comment Angula could not confirm whether elections would take place or not. "I'm hearing different things," he said, adding that he had not attended a meeting where elections were discussed.

"There is nothing indicating that there is going to be an election," Angula said. He said members of the group are squabbling among themselves such that he cannot determine who is telling the truth.

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