Namibia: Mariental Informal Settlements to Be Demarcated

Residents living in the informal areas of Mariental will soon be moved onto demarcated land with land titles as per the Flexible Land Tenure System, the town's municipality has announced.

According to the municipality's senior manager of economic development and community affairs, Catherine Boois, in an interview with this reporter last week, the municipality teamed up with the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia and the National Housing Action Group to conduct an enumeration process to update the current database of informal area dwellers in the town.

The programme, called the Communal Land Information Project (Clip), aims to collect data on all the informal settlements in the town and assist the municipality's efforts towards planning and upgrading them. The enumeration will be completed by February.

"We had consultations with the Ministry of Land Reform to pilot the Flexible Land Tenure System in possible areas we have already scoped out. The department is now working towards the strategy to be approved at the council meeting in February," said Boois.

She said a feedback meeting will be held on 28 January to review the challenges faced during the enumeration process and for the municipality to offer its assistance where concerns are raised.

Boois said that once people are moved to a demarcated area, service delivery will be easier.

"The first thing we need to do is to rearrange people to the demarcated areas, and that is where the community needs to help the municipality by reporting anyone found grabbing a piece of land. We have arranged with the Namibian Police to help us stop people from grabbing land, because it is easier to stop them while in the process of setting up rather than demolishing the already set up structures," she said. Boois added that the more people grab land, the more difficult it becomes for the municipality to plan. She, therefore, urged the community to refrain from occupying land illegally so that those currently settled in informal areas can be provided with basic services such as water points.

According to Boois, the municipality is aware of the shortage of land for the community to build their houses on but that some progress has been made. She said, to date, the group that has received the most land to build houses on in the past three years is the shack dwellers' federation. "They have recently completed another 20 houses at Empelheim Extension 3, we currently have 30 people with ministerial approval to buy land and build their houses. This land is heavily subsidised by the council for people to afford land," she said.

She said the council took a resolution at the end of last year to combat hepatitis E and other contagious diseases. She informed buyers that if they want to build toilets on their land, they would be excused from paying building fees for the next two years. In addition, the municipality has sourced a private individual to draw up a building plan for the toilets.

"When they want to build a toilet, we at the municipality [will] just give them the building plan. They don't [need to] pay building fees - we simply show them where the pipes are connected and do the inspection as they are building, so that we make sure it is a quality structure," said Boois.

* Hilmah Hashange is an information officer in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in the Hardap region.

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