Windhoek — The Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) of Chief Kuaima Riruako has been struggling to remove over 13 families from its premises in Katutura, near the Herero Mall, since 2008.
Their fate now hangs in the balance, after they were given up to the end of December to vacate and make way for much-needed renovations. The premises used to be the dwelling of Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako before independence until in the 1990's.
The OTA intends to return the premises to the chief like it was the case in the 1990's.
Deputy Secretary of the OTA, Havarua Kandjii, complained that due to non-payment since early May this year, the municpal bill at the premises has escalated to approximately N$35 000, which has resulted in the suspension of water and electricty for almost two weeks now.
Since some of the tenants refuse to pay the outstanding bills for utilities, the OTA may eventually have to settle the bill itself in order for the renovations to commence.
"We end up paying ourselves," complained Kandjii, elaborating that this is the fourth time water and electricity services are suspended on the premises, "We have helped them [the tenants] before, this is not the first utility closure," he maintained, adding that some tenants' debts have accumulated to up to N$8 000.
Kandjii explained that the house was built for Riruako before independence and was used as collateral to get a loan from a commercial bank to take the Namibian government to court to have about 50 Herero chiefs recognized in the 1990's. Riruako moved from the premises during that period. The loan amount which was N$60 000 at the time, accumulated interest that reached N$240 000 by the time the bank wanted to have the premises auctioned off in 2008.
As a means to pay off the debt and to maintain the property, the OTA leased rooms to 13 tenants who were to pay rent in addition to water and electricity. The house comprises of four bedrooms, an office, a conference room, living room, dining room, store room, two garages and two outide rooms, which were all converted into bedrooms. A common kitchen and four bathrooms make up the remainder of the property. The huge debt was finally paid off by the OTA, however the tenants continued to live on the premises on a mutually agreed basis with rent ranging between N$300 to N$850 per month depending on the size of the room.
The arrangement was to have each tenant pay rent, as well as water and electricity separately.
One tenant is responsible for the collection of the rent, water and electricity payments, which is handed over to the OTA, which in turn pays the municipal bills, according to Kandjii.
"We want to bring back the house to the condition that it was in before. The house was built for the chief before independence and it is his perogative to decide what to do with the premises after the renovations have been completed," he said. When New Era visited the premises yesterday, one could cleary see the filthy, dilapitated condition the building is in, which is a far cry from the haven it once was when Riruako lived there in the 1990's. "We asked them [the tenants] to leave several times and we explained that we want the house renovated," complained Kandjii.
The house also accomodates additional guests such as out of town visitors who need a place to stay for a fee of N$50 per night.
"We will talk to them until we reach an understanding," he said, without ruling out the possibility that this could be followed by legal action if no resolution is forthcoming.