25 September 2012

Namibia: Minister Ekandjo Names New NHE Board

Windhoek — The Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Jerry Ekandjo, yesterday named five new National Housing Enterprise (NHE) board members after the term of the previous board expired.

The board retained current CEO of Metropolitan and chair of the Election Commission of Namibia (ECN) Jason Nandago, who has spent over nine years on the board.

Nandago is joined by former Plan fighter and academic Dr Andrew Nikondo, the Vice-Rector of Academic and Student Affairs at the Polytechnic of Namibia, while the deputy governor of the Bank of Namibia Ebson Uanguta completes the threesome of male board members.

Also, the former deputy minister of Home Affairs, Theo Mushelenga, joins former deputy mayor of Walvis Bay Balbina Pienaar, who is currently the deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, on the board.

"We are here to assure affordability and quality as key aspects of our services and that means not just to dump products on people, but to make sure they (houses) are habitable," said Nandago.

He further said the enterprise could now yield as much as three-times more than its current capability due to the new interventions Ekandjo had proposed.

"The NHE must strive to create two new components: firstly, you must have your own department that services its land and have the equipment along with technical people who can service that land for you. Secondly, you need to start building homes rather than issuing tenders to other companies because in the end this incurs unnecessary, avoidable costs to Namibians," Ekandjo told the board members.

The NHE must shift toward becoming more "hands-on" in making available affordable housing options for the Namibian public, Ekandjo implored the new members.

Ekandjo said after 20 years of existence, the NHE should move from a paper-pushing consultancy that issues tenders, to an organisation with its own infrastructure and a team of service-personnel to do the job.

"We have decided to subsidise NHE so that (you) can service land, plots and build houses. NHE should build for low-income, middle-income [people] and what is to stop it from becoming big enough to cater for those directors in companies, they also deserve the right," said Ekandjo.

Ekandjo added that the NHE's sole mission is to house Namibia and if his proposed bill goes through, the enterprise would find itself with a much bigger role to play in the building of homes nationwide.

The proposed bill, approved at the recent Swapo Party National Policy Conference, would outlaw land auctions and tendering by local authorities and prevent "tycoons from Australia, Germany and Canada [from taking] over and sending people to bid for plots on their behalf. This situation could arise in a whole town purchased by these people," Ekandjo warned.

Furthermore, the proposed bill would prohibit foreign nationals from owning land, but avail it on a 30-year renewable lease, while Namibian citizens could either purchase land or lease it for a 50-year renewable period. "If a young employed citizen is 28 years old, they might not yet think about marriage or a house, instead they just want a flat or something that is not expensive. NHE should also begin to consider those youths because I have seen that young professionals are in a difficult position," said Ekandjo.

He added that squatting had become commonplace among young migratory employees but self-contained flats would go a long way in battling the lack of accommodation for them.

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