26 November 2012

Namibia: DRC Residents Must Face Changes

RESIDENTS of Swakopmund’s DRC informal settlement must be ready to face necessary changes that will accompany the anticipated formalisation of the shantytown, said the newly elected Swakopmund mayor, Juuso Kambueshe, at a public meeting in the DRC yesterday.

Notable changes will involve the relocation of illegal residents from land where service infrastructure for water, sanitation and electricity has to be laid.

“We are asking those residents who are not part of the proper DRC community to be ready to move. We are not chasing them away. We know where we will move them to so they can also benefit from the process. We will appreciate their cooperation,” said Kambueshe.

In the same vein, he warned that while the Swakopmund Town Council has not resorted to forced eviction of illegal squatters, “this does not mean the option was obsolete”.

The provision of services will also bring the responsibility of payment for these services.

“You will get your services, but you will have to pay for it. Services are not free. And then you can’t come and protest that you are unable to afford these services that you wanted,” said Councillor Rosalia Noabes, who also attended the meeting.

Legal residents, which exclude those who have illegally set up shacks on the fringes of the recognised DRC area, will also be expected to sign a lease contract with the Swakopmund municipality as part of the transaction to acquire land.

Kambueshe said the council acknowledged that while most residents were registered, there were still some that had been living there for the past 10 to 12 years, who are still not recognised residents. He assured that the latter will be accommodated and become beneficiaries of the formalisation.

“But there are also the land grabbers who believe in a myth that they will get free land and then enjoy the same benefits as those who are legally here,” said Kambueshe.

The formalisation has already been okayed by the Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing and Rural Development, and it is hoped to start implementing this plan by next year.

“I will put on record again and again that the formalisation of the DRC is a priority that we are committed to tackle head on,” he said.

Last month, DRC residents staged a protest that turned violent in front of the Swakopmund municipality. The protestors were led by a committee of residents who accused the municipality of procrastinating the formalisation process.

It came to light that there was already an existing and recognised DRC Development Committee that is keeping abreast of the formalisation process and updating the residents on the progress.

The protesting committee had allegedly not consulted with the recognised committee, resulting in confusion. It is alleged that most members of the non-recognised committee were illegal residents.

“We cannot work divided. Unity is key to the process. We need to set aside our differences, tribalism and racism and political affiliations. The formalisation process is much bigger than these issues. It’s about the wellbeing of all the people here. Let’s unite in this cause,” Kambueshe urged.

The council has opened its doors for other DRC committees to be registered and become part of the formalisation process. These committees can also include illegal residents.

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