13 June 2012

Namibia: Low-Income Swakopmunders Feel 'Cheated'

A group of 45 low-income residents are accusing the Swakopmund Municipality of cheating them out of their dreams to own their own homes by not giving them the erven promised to them in 2001.

According to the residents, the council offered plots for sale to the Swakopmund community, and low-income residents all had the opportunity to apply for an erf through the Build Together scheme. They registered their names for approval from the Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing and Rural Development and those who qualified were allocated an erf number.

According to the chairman of the concerned group, Abisai Teofilus, applicants earning between N$500 and N$3 000 a month were entitled to register for a loan of between N$20 000 and N$40 000 through the scheme, which could be paid back in 20 years.

Some of those awarded erf numbers even paid water connection fees, while the others were told to wait.

"We were overly excited because for once, we were given the opportunity to improve our life and those of our families. "An opportunity of a lifetime," is what we called it. What was supposed to be a dream turned into a horrible nightmare," the group is quoted as saying in a petition to mayor Rosina //Hoabes.

The "nightmare" was that the applicants found houses on their allocated erven.

"These new owners did not know what was going on. They just managed to get the loan and start building - on my erf - without me knowing. The new owners would say that our applications were 'frozen' but no one from the council came back to tell us this. Our erven was just given away," said Eveline Kavendjii.

According to some of the residents, they are renting rooms to live in now. If the process went smoothly from the start, they could have repaid half of their loans by now instead of still paying rent for a room that's not theirs, they claim.

The petition states that the applicants were never notified of any changes made by the council, nor did the applicants give anyone permission to build on their erven.

The petition states that the council was repeatedly asked to explain the changes, but the only explanations given were "not credible".

The protesters threatened to occupy the completed houses on their erven, or to occupy other erven and start building there.

The petition was handed over to the municipality's general manager of finance, Hellao !Naruseb, and general manager for community development services, Mike Iipinge, during a protest at the municipality yesterday morning.

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