29 January 2013

Namibia: Councillor Accused of Occupying Land Illegally

A CITY councillor is accused of occupying land illegally and sowing division in the Greenwell Matongo settlement of Windhoek, to the extent that the community now owes the municipality N$320 000 in rates and taxes, as residents allegedly refused to pay their dues because of the dispute.

The Twahangana community consists of 250 people who formed a cooperative to buy land. In December 2001, Twahangana bought Erf 3219, which measures 66 612 square metres, at Goreangab at a cost of N$450 000.

Twahangana, which means "we are united" in Oshiwambo, now struggles to address its never-ending internal squabbles. The infighting is between the current management headed by its director, Anna Kapolo, and a breakaway faction which calls itself the "concerned residents", led by Moses Shiikwa among others.

The management accuses Shiikwa, a city councillor, of occupying Twahangana land illegally.

The area, which covers a large stretch of the popular Eveline Street, was formally subdivided by a land-surveying company to accommodate 250 households. The individual sites average 200m2, and were assigned to the members of the group.

Kapolo, one of the founding members who have occupied the land since 1994, said last week that Shiikwa is one of several politicians who have an interest Twahangana land. She said Shiikwa was among those who initially occupied the area illegally in the 1990s but pulled out in 2002, a year before Twahangana bought the land from the municipality.

Kapolo said the councillor was refunded the N$500 he had invested but he later said he wanted the land back, after it was demarcated.

His request was turned down by the group. However, he has since returned, illegally according to Kapolo, and has even defied an eviction order to vacate the Twahangana land.

Shiikwa has denied allegations that he is occupying the land illegally, adding that a resignation letter in his name was forged by the group's leadership. "I never resigned," he said.

Shiikwa said the top of the resignation letter stipulates that "this form must be completed in ink by the member of Twahangana in her/his handwriting". He said the letter was not in his handwriting.

The group said Shiikwa, who was not a councillor at the time, ignored them and set up two squatter camps, a move that irked the group.

A warrant of eviction dated April 29 2010 showed that the court ordered that Shiikwa be removed from the land. That did not succeed.

The councillor, who is the chairperson of the city council's management committee, is being accused of causing division in the Twahangana community by encouraging some members not to pay their dues.

Shiikwa questioned the standing of the group's financial books, saying there was a lack of accountability.

"They should tell us how they used the money, it's all we want," he said, referring to allegedly unaccounted money amounting to N$2 million.

Shiikwa said he won an appeal against the eviction order, but the other group said the appeal does not exist.

Kapolo, the director of the self-help group, told The Namibian how they started the Twahangana initiative in 1998.

The community is now at the stage of acquiring services such as water and electricity, but the internal squabbles seem to be delaying such plans.

Relations among the Twahangana members have soured to the extent that the two groups held separate meetings on Sunday, at the same time. Each meeting was attended by 80 to 90 people.

The latest is that Kapolo's group has endorsed the demolition of five communal toilets which served 250 households, favouring individual household toilets instead.

The other group is saying that the communal toilets should be re-built because the idea of individual toilets is ill-timed due to the lack of infrastructure such as a sewage system.

"How can we have household toilets if we don't even have water in our houses," said a member at the meeting of the concerned members.

The same members are campaigning for the City of Windhoek to provide the services for free, a suggestion which will not work, due to the agreement which the group entered when it bought the land in 2001.

Some members have already build brick houses, while the majority still live in shacks.

Kapolo's group insisted that they should fast-track the provision of services by first destroying the communal toilets since it would encourage members to pay up and increase their efforts in getting individual toilets.

"Imagine four toilets for 250 households. It's unhygienic," said a member who supported the demolition of the toilets.

According to the group's sale agreement with the City of Windhoek, the provision of services such as water and electricity is the responsibility of the group and can be done in consultation with the City.

Niilo Taapopi, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the municipality, said since it's private property, the municipality cannot interfere in the group's squabbles.

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