Namibia: MPs Blame Govt for Housing Crisis

President Hage Geingob (file photo).

THE government's failure to effectively implement the decentralisation policy is largely to blame for the mushrooming of informal settlements in urban areas.

This is according to Landless People's Movement leader Bernadus Swartbooi, who on Wednesday in the National Assembly blamed the mounting housing backlog on the government's bureaucracy and ineffectiveness.

Swartbooi was contributing to a motion to discuss the need to implement the Flexible Land Tenure Act to address the challenges of housing and security of occupation in informal settlements.

The LPM leader acknowledged that the policy of decentralisation was good in principle when it was adopted at independence.

Had this policy been fully implemented, Swartbooi said, much of the problems that are experienced at local government level could have been resolved by councillors.

This is not the case as resources and the authority to approve critical decisions still lie with the central government, he said.

This central government authority was among the reasons many problems at regional and local authority level are not addressed timely, he said.

"Every fundamental decision to address issues at your locality as a local authority councillor has to have the approval of a minister who doesn't understand the circumstances of your locality, and yet those decisions will take so long to get approved . . ," Swartbooi said.

He said the challenges of urban land and housing should also be attributed to a lack of leadership.

Swartbooi believes the flexible land tenure system would not bring solutions to the issues of urban land and housing.

His view on decentralisation was supported by the Popular Democratic Movement's Vipuakuje Muharukua, who blamed the government for failing to diversify the economy at regional level and take services to the people.

"Muharukua said decentralisation has failed in almost all aspects of the government and most constituencies "have no capacity to develop the localities whatsoever".

He said another problem was corruption, which is hampering development and keeping resources from "ordinary people".

Minister of labour, industrial relations and employment creation Utoni Nujoma said the problem of urban housing and growing informal settlements should not be blamed on the government.

He said the ruling party inherited a huge backlog from South Africa's apartheid administration and was still "planning to address the issue 24/7".

"People from the north were not allowed to come here [to urban areas] After independence, everybody had an opportunity to come here to look for opportunities. It is not the fault of the Swapo Party," he said.

Nujoma was supported by fellow Swapo MP Modestus Amutse, who blamed the housing crisis on "the fundamental freedoms provided for by the Constitution under Article 21 that all persons shall have the right to settle and resettle in all parts of Namibia".

Amutse urged Namibians to be patient and understand "the dynamics associated with land delivery, which normally starts with land allocation".

Rally for Democracy and Progress leader Mike Kavekotora called Nujoma out for blaming the current housing crisis on apartheid.

"When you take over the government, you take the good, the bad and the terrible, so if 30 years down the line you are still trying to blame somebody else, then you don't deserve to be in government," Kavekotora said.

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