12 January 2018

Namibia: The Dead Won't Vote for You

opinion

SOME Rehoboth residents have taken over land reserved for a cemetery, and accused the municipality of prioritising the dead over the living.

The residents, who have settled on the land that is on the eastern edges of the town, said the councillors should know that the dead will not vote for them when election time comes.

They have erected several shacks close to the cemetery that has about 60 old and new graves.

When The Namibian visited yesterday, some of the residents were milling around, with some women chatting to one another over a fence.

Although there is no water nor electricity, clothes were hung on a fence, while in the distance you could hear a radio playing loudly. Clerence Vlermuis (22) has been living in the area for more than two years now.

He claimed that the municipality moved him from the land where the cemetery is now.

When we met Vlermuis, he was busy cooking some 'vetkoek' outside his shack.

"I was part of those people who were moved from that area where the new cemetery is now. The municipality is more concerned about where to accommodate the dead than us.

"Now, they want us to move to the 'k*kdam'. Do you know how terrible it smells there? It's not fit for any human being.

"The way they are treating the dead is better than the way they are treating the living. When it comes to voting, who are voting: the living or the dead?" Vlermuis asked.

Mother of three, Amanda Garises (28) said the area was called "Nearby the Cemetery location".

Garises said she has been staying in the area for three years now, and that she does not understand why the municipality was not addressing the land issue.

"Why is the municipality not coming to us, and telling us we must move? They want to extend the cemetery. But last time the municipality told us that we would not be moved, but now there are rumours that we must be moved to the "k*kdam'," she charged.

"Amanda Garises will not move to that dam. Why are they not moving the cemetery there? Why must we go to a place that is not safe for our children? Because other people refused to move the cemetery, they decided to move us?" Garises asked.

Jeffrey Kasupi, who spoke on behalf of the Rehoboth Town Council, could not say whether the municipality is going to move the people or not.

"In the first place, these people are here illegally. They grabbed land, and frankly speaking, the municipality identified this land because it was an urgent situation as the old cemetery is full.

"At the current moment, I cannot commit myself to say, yes, we will move these people if we need to extend the cemetery, and I can also not say we will not move them.

"But there is another piece of land identified for another cemetery on the outskirts of the town," Kasupi added.

He said there is no way that the council would provide water or electricity to the people occupying land illegally.

"If we give them these services, they will become comfortable. We must identify land, service it, and allocate it to those who applied," he stated.

Kasupi noted that the municipality and the community will need to meet more so that they can discuss the way forward.

Meanwhile, the community said they need to have a meeting among themselves first before they meet with the municipality.

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