Namibia: City Warns Against Housing Scams

23 September 2019

CITY of Windhoek chief executive officer Robert Kahimise said senior citizens and vulnerable members of society have become the victims of swindlers who target their properties.

Speaking at a press briefing in Windhoek on Friday, Kahimise said "every year, vulnerable people around Windhoek are swindled out of their houses through this scheme and are then evicted, leaving them homeless, and in the process entrenching patterns of poverty, discrimination and social exclusion".

He added that the swindling of property usually happens to those benefiting from the low-cost Build Together programme and Windhoek's housing scheme, which are aimed at reducing the housing backlog.

The city's warning comes after a family of 13 was evicted on 11 September 2019 from their Otjomuise home of over seven years by breadwinner Fistorine Garises' former boss, Desmond Howard.

Garises told The Namibian last week that in 2011, Howard bought her an erf on Philadelphia Street in 8ste Laan, Otjomuise, to make her life easier after she had worked for him for over 10 years as a domestic worker.

She added that at the time, she was living in a shack in Okuryangava with her children. But the shack caught fire, and they lost everything.

Howard then suggested that she finds her own plot where she could live with her children. Garises subsequently approached her grandfather Joël Araëb, and told him that her boss had instructed her to look for a plot, but she could not find one.

She said her grandfather told her that he had been awarded a plot in Otjomuise by the municipality, but because he was 72 years old at the time, they could not give it to him without someone else to take responsibility. She said her grandfather suggested that she take it over, on condition that he would live with her.

Howard then offered to build the family a brick house on that plot in 2013. After Garises fell ill in 2015 and could no longer work, Howard changed the ownership of the property into his name, which led to the family's eviction last week. According to Kahimise, on 3 September 2011, Howard concluded the purchase agreement for the Otjomuise house, which was earmarked as part of the low-cost housing scheme.

On 14 September 2011, the owner of the property, Garises' grandfather Araëb and his wife Salode, concluded the sale agreement with the municipal council. However, when their agreement was signed, the house had already been sold to Howard on 3 September 2011 without the family's knowledge.

"Howard paid the purchase price to the city of Windhoek on 15 September 2011. The purchase price was paid for and on behalf of the said Araëb couple to obtain ownership of the immovable property, but for Howard to obtain ownership of the immovable property after seven years from 3 September 2011," Kahimise explained. He added that the intention of the parties in the first agreement was never to transfer ownership of the property to the Araëb couple.

"The purchaser (Howard) had at all material times the intention to acquire ownership of the erf to construct not one but many dwellings and/or apartments," said Kahimise.

The municipality has now decided to reverse the transaction to transfer the name of the property back to the Araëb family.

Kahimise added that for low-cost houses, the city has a standard practice for sale agreements of these types of properties.

"These properties, once allocated, may not be sold in a period of seven years. This was meant to protect the vulnerable new owners of these plots and erven," he stressed. In the case of the evicted Otjomuise family, the restrictive resale conditions were omitted from the final deed of sale.

The City of Windhoek has since reversed the deal, and provided alternative shelter to the stranded family.

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