URBAN land is not for the poor because it is for sale and those who cannot afford to buy should stay on communal land instead of resorting to grabbing land, said Katima Mulilo chief executive officer Raphael Liswaniso last week.
Liswaniso said this after the town council and the police last Thursday demolished about 100 illegal structures at the Lwanyanda compound at the Zambezi regional capital. He also said that they would similarly demolish illegal structures at Cowboy, Macaravan West, Macaravan East and Mahohoma compounds.
At the time of the demolition campaign last week, Lwanyanda compound residents were busy installing their own borehole, at a cost of N$20 000. However, the borehole was also destroyed during the demolition action.
"The town is not a place for people who are poor, as we provide services at a cost. So if you are poor it is better you stay in communal land," Liswaniso said. "You should only come to town when you know you have organised your life and are able to afford land here.
"Being poor does not give you the right to obtain land in an illegal way, you must follow the law. Many of these people are coming here to look for employment while there is no employment and they are instead becoming criminals," he said.
Liswaniso said destroying illegal structures and property might be seen as cruel, but the town council had tried everything to find solutions. However, illegal land grabbers had continued to erect structures.
"We were negotiating with the community members to tell them what they are doing is illegal. We had five meetings with these people, but they would attend the meeting yet keep doing the same thing," he said. "We have taken a decision to give them an eviction letter. However, it seems they did not want to take us seriously. The process of negotiations failed. That is why we decided to forcefully remove [them]. We are going to destroy all the structures whether finished or not."
Liswaniso said most of the land grabbers came from villages and some even from Zambia, Botswana and Angola, because they are aware that the town council had been asleep on the issue.
"This measure was very necessary for the illegal land grabbers to take us serious because we have been patient with them and the situation got out of the hand," he said. "This will also send a message to those who were still planning to grab land not to do so. People from the villages are coming to take land along with foreigners."
He added that town lands belonged to the state and that it was the duty of local authorities to uphold the law.
"The law is that everybody should get land in a legal way and not just grab it. These land grabbers are hampering us to service land for the people who apply legally because they occupy that very land," he said. "So far the council has registered about 5 000 people who want plots and this land they are illegally occupying is earmarked."
A visibly saddened Elmar Munichezi, one of the residents of Lwanyanda compound, who spoke to The Namibian on Thursday, said she had nowhere to go with her children since their home was destroyed.
"What they are doing to our houses is not right. They do not have to treat us like this just because we are poor," she said. "All I wanted is to bring my children close to school. At my village there is no school where I can enroll my daughter. We are applying for plots, but council is not providing anything for us. The Swapo government is not for the poor, but only for the rich. Where will I go with my children now?"Another resident of Lwanyanda compound, Olivia Libuku, said she spent about N$5 000 to build her house, which was destroyed.
"I'm already struggling, but now the council is destroying it just like that. They are simply disrespecting us because we are poor and powerless," she said. "Even the police are coming armed as though we are dangerous criminals. If the police are choosing sides, who is supposed to protect the poor? We are only hearing Harambee, but we, the poor, are left behind."