27 November 2012

Namibia: Councillor 'Abuses' Powers

THE permanent closure and rezoning of a public park in Okahandja, on which a town councillor is building a double-storey house, has tongues wagging at the garden town.

A full town council meeting scheduled for 15h00 tomorrow is expected to decide on the permanent closure and rezoning of the park to a “single residential” area on which the chairperson of the municipality’s management committee, Valerie Aaron, is building a house which is near completion.

To add insult to injury, the said property is adjacent to the historic grave sites of anti-colonial Herero and Nama heroes in the vicinity of the Andreas Kukuri Centre.

Also paining residents is that Aaron has incorporated palm trees and grass laid out and maintained by the municipality into the property, with high concrete walls surrounding her double-storey house on the 1 750-square-metre property.

An opposition councillor who prefers anonymity said the cost of the rezoning exercise is not be paid by Aaron herself, but by the municipality’s consultants, Stubenrauch Planning Consultants.

Sources also said that Aaron did not recuse herself from a management

committee meeting that approved the rezoning last week, calling it a serious conflict of interest.

The upset residents further complained that tomorrow’s council meeting will be held at 15h00, instead of the customary 18h00, which means that many residents cannot attend the meeting.

Stubenrauch Planning Consultants wrote a letter on November 7 to the Ministry of Local and Regional Government, Housing and Rural Development in which they sought permission for the rezoning and “consent to commence with construction while the rezoning is in process”.

The letter stated that the period for objections against the permanent closure expired on February 17 2012 already.

The letter said one comment was received that there was no objection, “but that consent to commence with construction only be granted once the rezoning was formally approved”.

Construction reportedly started on February 15, two days before the closing date for objections.

But in the November 7 letter to the ministry, Stubenrauch Planning Consultants said the start of the construction “is not viewed as having had a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment and neighbours whatsoever, as there were no objections forthcoming from the general public”.

But residents are fuming that Aaron’s house is blocking their access to the park, a place many regard as the only sanctuary from the heat and general drabness of the town.

Another councillor accused Aaron of having asked a municipal worker yesterday to install sprinklers on the plot, which they say is another irregular cost to the municipality.

And as the Swapo Party is getting ready to vote for its presidential candidate at the end of the month, the sources further accused Aaron of using council property – transport and telecommunication services – to campaign for Regional and Local Government Minister Jerry Ekandjo.

When approached for comment on the allegations, Aaron referred The Namibian to the municipality’s CEO, Frans Enkali.

Enkali said the construction of Aaron’s house was already in progress by the time he took over as CEO at the municipality in June, and he assumed that the previous CEO or acting CEO must have dealt with the matter.

But current councillors say that the rezoning of the plot was never on the agenda of the council.

“We feel the house must be broken down. That place is for families to picnic and relax at,” one disgruntled councillor said.

A resident said: “You and I are paying rates and taxes and that is why we can talk [complain]. Why would we vote people into power who are against us?”

Enkali further said he was not aware that Stubenrauch Planning Consultants were to pay for the rezoning of the site.

He also said he was not aware of Aaron using any municipal property for the Swapo Party presidential race.

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