After dismantling several shacks in Windhoek's Okahandja Park informal settlement a few weeks ago, the City of Windhoek yesterday once more targeted corrugated-iron sheet shacks at the Thlabanelo informal settlement adjacent to Goreangab Dam for demolition.
The squatters at Thlabanelo say they have nowhere else to go, but City Police Superintendent Jerry Shikesho was adamant that most of them are people with land already, and are only erecting shacks for business purposes. He said people who complain are probably the ones illegally selling vacant pieces of land to land-hungry business people who buy the land to set up shebeens.
"I know some of these people from Okahandja Park. We are not dismantling, we are just trying to help them to remove the shacks," Shikesho told New Era. He said people are often warned to remove their shacks within a specified period of time. "We give them a warning, either by letters or by writing on their shacks," he explained, adding that it is only when the warning is ignored that they "help them remove the shacks".
Samora Machel Councillor, Abisai Angula, feels it was not necessary for the police to dismantle shacks "just like that". He said it would have been good to come together as human beings and solve the matter amicably.
"They (city council) are the owners of the land and they are the ones who send the police to come here. We have to sit with them and deliberate on how to solve this amicably," Angula said.
Angula was however mum on how soon the deliberations would start, but could not resist taking a swipe at the police saying, "Even if you are a law enforcer, you are also human. Someday, something like this can also happen to you."
The councillor said the action destroys the property of already poor and innocent people, which would in turn cost the owners money to replace.
However, Shikesho remained adamant saying people should not point fingers at the police, because they are just "law enforcers" and therefore merely carrying out lawful orders.
He further said the constituency councillors should enter into discussions with the city council or the line ministry and certainly not with the police.
To ordinary people the demolitions may appear as wrongly-timed, given the cold winter season, but according to City of Windhoek Manager for Corporate Communications, Joshua Amukugo, the policy governing land invasion has no exemptions.
"The policy does not say except in winter," he stressed. He said the standing policy automatically places upon the City of Windhoek and residents a responsibility to act against land invasions without going through the constituency council.
He added that it is not that there is no concern from the side of the city about the acute housing shortage, "but things should be done procedurally."
"Cities and towns are developed in accordance with town planning procedures," he said, adding that if people are allowed to erect shacks everywhere, then the city will be aligned in a disorderly fashion.
"You should give us water and electricity", a woman shouted while City Police officers were busy removing an "illegal electricity connection".
Residents also accuse the city of just servicing land in the southern part of the capital.
"They service land where the rich people are, in Klein Kuppe and Auasbrick. They ignore us and when we clear our land, they come and chase us away," another resident complained bitterly.
But Amukugo disagreed. "Things are being done systematically. Servicing land is expensive. It requires money and money should be recovered," he said referring to the fact that many people living in other areas of the capital are also unemployed and cannot afford to pay for municipal services.
The encounter between the police and residents almost turned violent as residents started to hurl stones at the police when they tried to arrest a woman.
Only two shacks belonging to one person and which resembled business establishments were dismantled, but Shikesho said that was just a warning to others to remove their illegal shacks before the police act.