Namibia: Woodcarvers Await 'Promised Land'

Woodcarvers await 'promised land' When Paulinus Oscar and five other men from Kavango set up shop on a piece of land near the truck port in southern Windhoek, it was just endless bush in sight.

"We cleared these bushes. We were sleeping here," said Oscar of the area they have been making and selling wood furniture, crafts and ornaments since 1997.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Oscar (55) told New Era the municipality officials back then informed them they were not allowed to sleep where they were selling their goods, so they cleaned what is today known as Sewende Laan for them.

"We were the first people there. The municipality gave us erven," he said with a look of nostalgia in his eyes. The little piece of land now houses between 50 to 80 young and old carpenters, joiners, woodcarvers and crafters, who are now known as the truck port carpenters.

However, with the construction of the road from Windhoek to the international airport going east, the road opposite their workshop, which runs to Rehoboth to the south, is now undergoing upgrading, which means the carpenters now have less space to operate.

"Working, moving and storing space have become a tad bit tighter, making us all uncomfortable," said Oscar, while his colleagues nodded in agreement. The carpenters said they have been in talks with the City of Windhoek for a number of years now, and have been promised a larger piece of land near the Hage Geingob Stadium. Oscar, who learned the trade from his father, believes this would make life easier for them.

They use generators for the power tools and get water from the service station. Their goods and raw material are exposed to weather conditions. They work in shifts so that there is always someone watching over their stuff even at night. "If the new place has shelter, it will give us peace," said Oscar.

Fearing there might not be a budget, Oscar said they are willing to move as long as they have a bigger space, as they have been waiting for far too long. Approached for comment, city spokesperson Harold Akwenye confirmed they have identified Erf 6352 for the relocation, adding that the department of housing, property management and human settlement is finalising the submission to council for approval.

"The development of the market will take place in phases, pending the availability of funding. The first phase of the development will make provision for services such as water and sewerage for the connection of ablution facilities. There is also a need to fence off the site and provide lights to ensure the safety of the traders and their goods," he noted.

The city further clarified the delay was due to financial constraints and required consultation with various internal and external stakeholders.

The cost implications for the first phase - site preparation, installation of sewerage and water, as well as provision of fencing, etc. are estimated at N$1.1 million. Meanwhile, with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, like many other traders, the group's livelihood has also been affected but they remain grateful to their local clientele.

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