28 November 2012

Namibia: Debate On Shack Demolitions

Windhoek — The Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) will convene a public discussion to debate the highly contentious issue of the demolition of shacks, today at the Habitat Research Centre (HRC) in Soweto.

LaRRI director, Hilma Shindondola-Mote told New Era the rationale behind the public discussion is to listen to residents of informal settlements, especially people who have been directly affected by the demolitions.

Stakeholders, including the City of Windhoek, City Police, the Polytechnic of Namibia and the Ministry of Regional and Local

Government, Housing and Rural Development have been invited to the discussions that are expected to lead to a bottom-up approach to solving the land issue.

She said often the City of Windhoek is quoted saying there is insufficient serviced land around the city for housing purposes, especially for the urban poor.

"This public meeting is to find out how the available land can be shared, so that everyone has a piece of land to live on comfortably," she explained.

Shindondola-Mote further said the meeting also intends to come up with a better term for inhabitants living in shacks as opposed to the current commonly used term "illegal", which she says is demeaning. "Who is illegal in an independent Namibia, how does it feel to be referred to as an illegal," she asked.

She added that the meeting will be a platform for the city to learn one or two things from the community on how to address the challenge of urbanisation, adding that "housing is a basic need, it should not just be a roof over the head, but a place where one should live with dignity and feel safe."

Shindondola-Mote said the meeting would end with a letter to the future president by the people who live in the informal settlements. She said in this letter, people would be at liberty to express their needs in terms of land, sanitation and housing to the future leader.

Shack demolitions has been a thorny issue this year, not only in Windhoek, but in also in towns like Keetmanshop, Mariental and Oshakati. It is also not a new phenomenon - history shows that shacks demolitions also took place before independence, she said.

The meeting will start at 18h00, at the Habitat Research Centre. Members of the public who wish to contribute to the discussion are free to attend.

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