9 January 2013

Namibia: Groot Aub Worries About Increased Rates and Taxes

The City of Windhoek (COW), which announced last year that it will extend its boundaries in all directions, said it was not yet in a position to reveal whether there will be an increase in basic services for those already settled within the 60 kilometre radius once the decision is finalised.

The City announced its plans of extension last year, which will mean that rural areas currently outside the city, such as Groot Aub up to the Hardap boundary in the south, up to Seeheim to the east, to the north up to the Otjozondjupa boundary and Baumgartsbrunn to the west, will fall under the municipality.

The City of Windhoek said that the decision followed the realisation that serviced land in the city was becoming scarce.

"At this point in time nobody knows if there will be an increase in services fees or not since the negotiation is still taking place between the city and the Khomas Regional Council. The negotiation is looking at a host of issues which will determine whether the City is in a position to take over the settlements or whether the Khomas Regional Council must continue to render services to such communities up until such a time when the City is ready to take over," said City of Windhoek acting public relations officer Scheifert Shigwedha.

Services amongst others include water and electricity.

Groot Aub residents this week expressed concern about the issue of affordability of basic services such as water and electricity once the settlement becomes part of Windhoek.

"Many of us work on farms and cannot afford the extravagant life that comes with living in the city. Already we are struggling to pay the monthly N$30 for water, will we be able to afford water and electricity as will be administered by the city of Windhoek?" a Groot Aub resident said.

Said yet another Groot Aub resident: "Not just anybody can afford to live in Windhoek anymore because it is too expensive. Sometimes we think we are bringing development to the people but we are actually just making life difficult for them because some of these big developments we believe are not pro-poor as the majority of the poor cannot afford them."

Many people living in settlements such as Groot Aub make a living by working low to middle income paying jobs in Windhoek and on nearby farms, but the majority still remain poor.

This is no cause for panic though, said Shigwedha, who maintains that one of the City's basic aims is to render affordable services to residents.

"If the negotiation concludes that the City of Windhoek should take over the running of the settlement, then the City of Windhoek will always render affordable services to its residents. There is no need for people to panic," he said.

The City of Windhoek last year also announced it will be increasing water basic tariffs, sewerage tarriffs, property tax, household refuse removal, whilst the solid waste management tariffs will also go up.

The city had also proposed a 15% increase in electricity tariffs. This means that an average low income household will have to pay an additional N$75, while an average middle income household will have to part with N$227.

For the average high income household, the current financial year of the City of Windhoek will translate into extra spending on municipal rates and taxes of N$537.

According to Amukugo, the benefit the extension will bring to settlements such as Groot Aub is that such settlements could stand to be proclaimed as townships in Windhoek.

"Several by-laws of the City of Windhoek, particularly the Windhoek Town Planning Scheme might be applicable to such communities once they are declared a township. However, all these are only possible once the negotiation between the government which is currently running the settlement and the City of Windhoek are concluded," he said.

Asked what changes the planned extension will bring about for those currently living at such settlements, Shigwedha said amongst others, the administration of the settlement will be taken over by the City of Windhoek and residents will be expected to adhere to several by-laws. One of the City of Windhoek by-laws requires people to apply for permission if they plan to host a party.

The by-law from the amended 2006 section 94 (1) of the Local Authorities Act of 1992 focuses on "Prohibition of Noise Nuisance".

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