29 January 2013

Namibia: City Disassociates Itself From Toilet Saga

Windhoek — The City of Windhoek says it has nothing to do with the controversial demolition of communal toilets on Erf 3219, in the Goreangab residential area that belongs to the Twahangana Self-Help Group.

City officials say the impression was created that the municipality ordered the demolition and dismissed the suggestion as "far-fetched and fanciful".

"As the rightful owner of the said property, Twahangana never needed any permission to demolish anything on a property that belongs to them, for as long as it does not endanger any lives," the city's spokesperson, Joshua Amukugo said at a media briefing last Thursday. The city official was referring to the recent demolition of communal toilets and suggestions that it was involved in a standoff between the Twahangana Self-Help Group and a rival 'concerned' group.

The squabble is over the demolition of five community toilets to make way for the construction of private and alone standing toilets for each of the 250 households occupying Erf 3219 in the Greenwell Matongo residential area.

Twahangana bought the 66 612-square metre plot from the city in December 2001, with the intention to build low-cost homes for its members. After acquiring the property, the Development Level Agreement stipulated that the group and its shareholders construct a communal waterborne sewerage system in the form of five toilet blocks each consisting of one toilet for men and women.

In addition, the group had to construct a further five communal toilet blocks within one year to date of sale, whereafter the council would build an additional five communal toilet blocks at the expense of the housing group.

After the above materilaised, a sewer line and access to electricity was provided, and as a result, the group deemed it important to replace the communal toilets with individual toilets for each household.

All stakeholders were informed as early as February last year to construct individual toilets for their homes, however, it would appear that some members did not adhere to the decision. In order to hasten the implementation of the decision, some members took to destroying the communal toilets. The group therefore approached the Windhoek Municipality to help them demolish the communal toilets, a step they believed would accelerate the erection of private toilets and pave the way for development of their land.

The municipality however did not heed their call to help demolish the facilities on the grounds that what happens on private property is none of its business. This led some members of the group to obtain a letter from a junior city official giving them permission to demolish the toilets.

City officials however deny any knowledge of the letter. Amukugo said the Twahangana Self-Help Group's right of ownership over the property gives it the sole mandate over everything that happens on the property.

"Therefore, for them to ask for permission to demolish the toilets remains beside the point, since whatever they do on the said property is of their own doing," he reiterated. The communal toilets, most of them broken and out of order could be used by anyone. Today the municipal water bill has skyrocketed to over N$30 000.

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