Namibia: Government Decongestion Plan in Limbo Over Funds

23 September 2020

THE government is blowing hot air with its ambitious plan to decongest informal settlements following revelations by minister of urban and rural development Erastus Uutoni that its coffers are dry and that such a project cannot be sustained.

Uutoni made a passionate plea to municipalities and rural councils in a letter, asking them to dig deep into their pockets to find funding to bankroll the plan.

He said councils should use resources allocated under their 2020/21 budgets.

"The decongestion is in response to the Covid-19-related state of emergency and is aimed at saving lives, and thus requires a change of priorities where necessary," he said.

Uutoni said councils should also identify residential areas in their localities and establish the number of dwellings and people involved, as well as their employment status and income levels.

The minister said the outline of the project should include the availability of an alternative area where people can be moved.

"The core developmental areas to be funded are the provision of serviced land and housing, improved sanitation, both in rural and urban areas, as well as the enhancement of governance and service-delivery capacity at sub-national levels," he said.

Uutoni said identified sites have not been surveyed yet and have no basic services.

He further said estimates for basic and critical works to be carried out should be made.

In his budget motivation for the 2020/21 financial year earlier this year, Uutoni said the ministry's total budget is N$1,7 billion, with roughly N$1,2 billion earmarked for the operational budget, and N$550 million for the development budget.

Uutoni said allocated resources would be used to fund the ministry's operational and developmental activities, as well as the 14 offices of the regional governors, 14 regional councils, 57 local authorities and 52 recognised traditional authorities.

Namibia has almost half a million people living in shacks and other make-shift structures, and the country has 113 informal settlements.

MISTAKEN PRIORITIES

Social analyst Herbert Jauch yesterday said the government is now paying the price of mistaken priorities and has failed the Namibian people in addressing the housing backlog.

He said the government has always diverted funds that could have been used for housing to projects that benefit the elite and politicians.

Jauch said the government failed to provide affordable housing despite the fact that 50% of Namibians in urban areas live in shacks.

He went on to say that the government diverted all funds to massive projects such as the airport highway currently under construction, which would only benefit the 10% of the population that flies, instead of addressing the housing backlog.

"I do not understand the argument that there is no money. The housing crisis should have been addressed a long time ago. This is just a lack of proper planning," Jauch said.

The Namibian Housing Action Group's coordinator, Heinrich Amushila, yesterday said they have been working with the government since 2018 to address the housing backlog, for which the government made available N$10 million in the 2018/19 financial year.

Gobabis and Karibib are two towns where informal settlements were upgraded through the Shack Dwellers' Federation.

Amushila said although they are not sure how the government would fund 2020's projects, further decongestion at Karibib would cost N$5 million, and decongestion at Helao Nafidi N$1 million.

"We are also negotiating with the City of Windhoek to see how the plan can work here. We are engaging the mayor's office. We are also discussing a plan with the Lüderitz Town Council, and they would need to source funds for the project," he said.

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