Namibia: City Lied to Us - Land Grabbers

A GROUP of about 50 Windhoek residents with rakes and shovels on Saturday said the recently elected city council lied when they promised to have a meeting with them to discuss their land issues.

This resulted in another attempt to grab land at Otjomuise over the weekend.

City councillors on 10 January promised to meet with the land grabbers on 18 January to address the urban land crisis, but cancelled the meeting without providing a reason.

Community activist Rietha Shipanga, one of the land grabbers, believes the council, like its predecessor, will bring no change, labelling councillors liars.

"We are tired of the lying promises [with] they come to us with every year. They told us they will have a meeting on 18 January. In fact, I actually called them on 17 January to ask where the meeting would be, and they said there would be a meeting. Why did they lie to us?" she asked.

Shipanga showed The Namibian letters she has written to four political parties, namely the Landless People's Movement, the Popular Democratic Movement, Swapo and the Independent Patriots for Change.

These parties are all represented on the City of Windhoek council.

Another land grabber, Mildred Brandt, concurred with Shipanga, saying they have raised their children in unsafe shacks, leaving them with no other option but to grab land.

"What are they expecting from us? We are voting every time, but all we get is empty promises; we are tired. We want land and we need a positive response from them. They must start living up to their promises. Houses and shacks are being burnt down because they are using gas. Let them stand up and focus on us and stop focusing on other things less important, because without us Namibia would not be where it is today," she said.

The group was later on Saturday forcibly removed by the Namibian Police and the City Police.

Municipality councillors two weeks ago addressed a group of at least 400 residents, promising to discuss possible solutions to the ongoing urban land crisis within a week.

The councillors at the time requested the grabbers to form a committee, which was done, Shipanga said.

There has, however, been no communication between the two parties since then.

Windhoek deputy mayor Clemencia Hanases yesterday said the councillors had to cancel the planned meeting with the residents due to their induction programme and site visits.

"We were at Midgard Country Estate for an induction the week after the incident, and last week we were busy with departmental and site visits. Our aim was to discuss it during the induction, but we did not have time," Hanases said.

She said she only found out about the weekend's land grabbing yesterday morning, and denied sending the police to the scene.

"I had no idea about it. The groups we (the councillors) are on, where we discuss the issues on the ground, were quiet and there was nothing of the incident there," she said.

Windhoek's councillors are set to meet today, and Hanases said they would try to add the matter to the agenda of tomorrow's management committee meeting.

Shipanga said the Affirmative Repositioning movement on Saturday called her to meet today at 15:00 to discuss the land issue, however, the movement's spokesperson, Simon Amunime, denied this, saying he is not aware of it.

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