8 November 2018

Namibia: Group Wants Interim Council for Henties Bay

The Henties Bay Social Action Movement is demanding an interim community council to replace the current town council until the next local authority elections in 2020.

About 30 members of the group, said to have nearly 1 000 members (which this newspaper could not verify) protested outside the Henties Bay municipality yesterday, claiming no confidence in the current leadership, and calling for them to be removed by 30 December, and be replaced by the interim community council made up of members of the community.

"We will not accept any party members as substitutes from any political party list until the next local authority elections," stressed group spokesperson Andreas Prins.

It is the same group which petitioned the municipality in May over land matters, giving the municipality two weeks to respond to their demands for land delivery and service. Nothing has materialised since then, and another protest in October did not materialise due to politicians not being present to receive petitions - hence, forcing the group to postpone the protest to yesterday.

Again, though, no politicians were present to receive the petition, but the group continued protesting anyway, and read their petition to the media.

The Namibian understands that members of the group, the Henties Bay Town Council and its chief executive officer, will meet Erongo governor Cleophas Mutjavikua next week over the issues.

Prins said the petition will be forwarded to urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga.

Henties Bay chief executive officer Reinhardt Ochs disputed all the 14 "facts" in the petition.

The group accused the council of being racist, and only appointing whites in top municipal positions, while sidelining blacks. This, however, contradicts the fact that out of the entire municipal staff at Henties Bay, there are only two white employees, Ochs said.

One is long-serving manager Johannes Kuhn, and the recently-appointed Henties Bay resident to be the town's chief fire officer.

Another grievance is the alleged failure by the councillors to deliver basic services to the town since they were elected in 2015. It is believed that most of the demonstrating group are residents of the !Oas informal settlement, who also accused the council of closing pre-paid water points.

Ochs said the municipality has, even though !Oas is still in the process of being formalised, invested about N$5 million in water and sewage services, as well as set up two public toilets and five water stands.

However, some of the stands have been hijacked (where water is being stolen), while the toilets were vandalised, which the municipality had to fix again.

The group furthermore claims they are still landless and homeless, and that councillors and their friends and relatives get upmarket land in the town.

Ochs countered that 47 houses had been handed over for low-cost housing since 2016, while 140 more erven (in extensions 5 and 7) are in the process of being registered specifically for low-cost housing.

He said anyone, including himself and councillors, is entitled to buy erven and houses through the proper procedures, and those claiming that this is not permitted are those who want land and houses for free.

"They must give us the names of those they are accusing. We need facts. We have even asked them to give the names of those who registered for land and have not received it, but they have not done so to date," added Ochs.

He said the same goes for the allegations that council approved tenders for family members and the well-connected, stating that the group needs to be clear and show who these councillors and family members are.

"Since the Procurement Act was implemented, councillors are no longer part of the tender process. I respect that we live in a democracy where people are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their facts", he stressed.

The members accused the councillors of making empty promises at the time of elections to win votes, but once they are in power, they forget about the poor and needy, and break their own promises.

"They always tell us there's no money, no resources when it comes to basic service delivery. But they travel around unnecessarily for workshops and claim S&T, and at the end of the day bring no good news and no economic growth. We can't be led and governed by untrustworthy, incapable, worthless, sleepy and self-enriching people who don't have the desire to solve our problems and improve our conditions. That is why we want to remove them," charged Prins.

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