"We do not need anything for free, we have never received anything for free from the government since independence, all we want is land and assistance to low income housing." This was one of the lines that echoed at a very touching gathering hosted by the Labour Resource and Research Institute in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung when residence from the informal settlements of Windhoek held an open public discussion on shack demolitions.
The meeting took place this Wednesday at the Katutura Habitat Centre.
22-years after independence, many unemployed or low paid citizens face the hardships of losing their homes to shack demolitions with claims that they are living on those lands illegally.
Informal settlements are not only unsafe due to lack of electricity and other basic services but are a hub of criminal activities as people sidestep the law.
Shack dwellers shared their views on socio-economic issues affecting them on a daily basis and challenged government officials to spend a night in the informal settlements.
According to one of the residents of Havana (an informal settlement in Katutura), Delphia Suxa she and other people from her community walk as much as 9km to catch a 07:00am municipal bus for which they have to wake up at 5:30am when it is still dark. "We have raised this issue numerous times to the Municipality, there is nothing new about this and even our kids walk for longer distances to get to school."
"Women are getting raped in these dark corners because we do not have electricity, there is a lot of domestic violence and the babies are being dumped more and more. This does not happened because a mother wants to, but because that person can not even afford bread which costs from as much as N$7.00," she stressed frustratedly.
Suxas said that life is hard for people in informal settlements. "We walk for kilometers just to get water and people work hard to gather different building materials for their homes just to have it demolished by people that do not even care whether we have shelter. We are people, We are humans, we deserve better."
She accused the government of neglecting its own people "When it is time for elections, we are not told that we are living on the lands illegally, they promised us better but until now, none of these promises have been fulfilled."
Another speaker from the crowd, Sophia Naruses challenged the former or next president or any other government official to visit the informal settlement. "Our homes are under water as there are holes in our shacks. Because of lack of toilets, we release faeces in plastics at night as it is too dark and unsafe to do so in the bushes and there are no toilets."
She said that they do not trust the government as it has not lived up to its promises nor does it recognize their rights to housing. "For 22years we have been loyal to our government, but our government has not been loyal to us. We have been crying and knocking on doors and we wont stop, we will keep on demanding what is rightfully ours."