19 June 2017

Namibia: Oshakati Humiliates Windhoek On Land Delivery

Oshakati, with an estimated population of around 36 500, serviced 2 210 plots in the last three years, while the City of Windhoek with around 325 800 people, had 371 plots serviced during the same period.

These figures are contained in the statistics provided by urban development minister Sophia Shaningwa last week in the National Assembly on the number of plots serviced in 11 towns across the country since 2014.

She revealed the statistics while responding to DTA member of parliament Nico Smit, who had asked several questions regarding the provision of serviced land.

Serviced land is an area where services such as roads, water supply and sewerage are installed.

The list by the minister shows that since 2014, local authorities serviced around 10 900 plots countrywide.

Oshakati topped the list with around 2 210 plots, while the coastal town of Swakopmund with an estimated population of about 44 700 came second with 2 084, and Katima Mulilo with around 28 300 people was third with 2 024 erven.

Keetmanshoop produced 1 009 plots, Walvis Bay had 920 erven, Grootfontein had 593, Otjiwarongo with 531 and Ondangwa in eighth position with 420 plots.

The others include the Windhoek municipality in ninth position with 371 plots, Gobabis with 357 and lastly Rundu with 92 plots.

Shaningwa said in total, 26 730 plots were serviced countrywide in the past three years, including the 10 900 erven. Although she did not say who serviced the rest, it appears that they were done by private developers.

Windhoek's 371 plots include those in Academia and Otjomuise, which are but a drop in the ocean, considering the high number of people migrating to the city.

Earlier this year, Shaningwa told the National Assembly that government had serviced around 7 700 erven since last year.

"A large percentage of these numbers have been brought about through government-sponsored initiatives such as the massive urban land servicing project, and related capital funding provided to regional councils and local authorities," she stated.

Oshakati is one of the few towns which appears to have fully implemented that pilot project.

Shaningwa said the latest figures confirm that the 6 500 land service delivery targets set in the Harambee Prosperity Plan had been reached.

What the minister did not say is that the targets are set so low that they do not match the 10 000 increase of new housing applications per year. Namibia's housing waiting list is estimated by government officials to be over 130 000.

Shaningwa furthermore cited figures by the Namibia Statistics Agency, which found in 2011 that Windhoek's population grows by 3,1% per year, while the Erongo region, which included towns like Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, recorded a population growth of 3,4% per year.

The figures also explain how the Windhoek municipality is struggling to keep up with the high demand for land in the city.

The Namibian reported last year that the NHE's waiting list in Windhoek had around 6 000 people, while the City of Windhoek had close to 40 000. Some of the applicants date back as far as 2003.

The Windhoek City council has over the years relied on private developers to service land, while also dishing out plots to well- connected individuals who are currently 'sitting' on erven.

Windhoek's land distribution to the well off is nothing new. The Namibian reported last year that since 2006, the City of Windhoek has only serviced 63 residential plots in Katutura, while over 2 000 residential plots were serviced in affluent neighbourhoods.

Meanwhile, the minister said the ban on the auctioning off of land still remains.

"The ministry has issued a moratorium on the auctioning of immovable properties to curb, amongst others, land speculation, and also to allow the low to middle-income-earners to acquire land. The moratorium was specifically issued on residential erven," she stressed.

The minister added that the advantages of using auctions as a way to sell plots includes competition among private developers, and increases money for local authorities.

However, that system has its disadvantages, including the fact that it encourages speculation with land, and locks out the low to middle-income-earners from the land market.

"It necessarily pushes up land prices, and thus creates a distorted land market. It is also seen by those who are in dire need of land as a discriminatory method against them," she noted.

Shaningwa said further investigations need to be done to determine if the auctioning of land should be totally phased out, or if it should be used only in extraordinary cases.

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