28 January 2013

Namibia: Backyard Tenants Grab Land

Okahandja — Some residents of Okahandja have decided to erect shacks illegally on a piece of open land behind Oshetu Number 1 informal settlement despite a televised directive from the municipality to desist from doing so.

The disgruntled squatters say they will not move until residents of Vyf Rand informal settlement, just a few kilometres from Okahandja town, who were the first ones to 'grab' land in similar fashion, are also told to relocate.

They say the situation has become desperate, as many of them have been thrown out of other house owners' yards where they have been leasing living space.

Some elderly say they have been living in their parents' backyards all their lives and cannot anymore bear to see how they and their children's children overcrowd one dwelling while 'there is enough land for all'.

"The mayor (David Urikhob) said he will give us erven before they fix other areas," claimed David Nepunda, who has been a resident of Okahandja for over 17 years.

Nepunda, who is also a committee member of the discontented group, maintained that after holding a meeting with Urikhob on August 23 last year, they were given the green light to occupy the land near the grave yard as the municipality was seemingly also in the process of "cleaning it up".

The committee member also claimed that they told the municipality's CEO, Frans Enkali, that they already started building on the open land and the latter said that they should 'not worry' and repeated Urikhob's words that the area would be 'cleaned up'.

Nepunda said that they were shocked when on national radio and television, the CEO "turned around on their promise" and told them to leave the area.

Christine Boois, the committee's secretary said that on January 7, they met Enkali, who told them to go back to the community and to write an application letter for land.

A follow-up meeting was to take place this week but while they were waiting, they were told on radio that they are illegally on the land.

"We were shocked. After our cooperation with the municipality to hear that!" she fumed, saying that the NBC apparently only sought the views of the CEO and the regional councillor Steve Biko Boois without approaching them.

She said that people have been waiting for too long and decided to erect dwellings on the land as it seemed that people from other towns were occupying the area with expensive houses they could not afford.

"I am in my uncle's yard now but I have been renting all over the place. If I buy furniture, they break because of moving from one place to the next," said Simon Eiseb, 51.

He said people have been struggling to get land for almost 15 years and they are told every time that there is no land.

He said that government should peruse census statistics to understand how people in Okahandja are living "on top of each other".

Another resident, who did not want her name mentioned, said that at Vyf Rand people took land but because of elections, the municipality turned a blind eye.

Approached for comment, municipal CEO Enkali denied claims that the municipality gave residents the right to occupy the land behind Oshetu Number 1.

"There is no way that the CEO or mayor would say that," said Enkali, adding that the municipality would demolish any structures that are not in line with the town planning.

He challenged the residents to bring their plot numbers if they claim that they were given the right to stay there.

Enkali said he had also applied for land and was waiting for an answer just like everybody else.

He said no council resolution was passed to give the residents the mandate to build there and it was a "complete lie".

Probed about the Vyf Rand settlement issue, Enkali said it did not matter where residents occupy land illegally as the same approach would be used.

"Wait until land is allocated. People should refrain from land grabbing," the CEO warned.

When approached for comment, Urikhob did not want to respond and said he was on sick leave.

Some residents of Okahandja have decided to erect shacks illegally on open land behind Oshetu Number 1 informal settlement.

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