Namibia: Family Kicked Out of Govt Flat Amid Winter

MARIA Antonius was casually walking around the government flats where she and six dependants live, when she suddenly heard her children screaming for her.

At the family's flat, she came across two police officers forcefully removing their belongings, with the children - three her own and three her brother's - visibly traumatised.

The 33-year-old single mother had recently moved into the government flat in Ausspannplatz, Windhoek, after living on the balcony of another flat in Katutura with the six children for eight months.

Antonius says she refused to leave the flat after the officers told her they are illegal occupants.

Neighbours eventually heard her loud protests and rushed to the flat, she says.

"When the neighbours got there, they saw the police pushing me out of my flat, saying I am there illegally and that I have to leave," Antonius says.

She says the way she gained access to the flat may not have been right, but she is desperate to keep the children safe.

"I did not ask anyone if I can stay there, but as soon as I got in I started with arrangements to get the flat to my name legally, as I am a civil servant," she says.

Antonius, who works as a soldier in the Namibian Defence Force, moved into the flat on 6 May and says she sent a letter to the Ministry of Works and Transport to help her with the legalities of occupying the flat on 12 May.

She says she was living at Havana in 2016 when her house burned down and her shebeen was robbed.

Since then Antonius and the children have been moving around looking for a place to stay, until they ended up on the balcony of a flat in Wanaheda in October last year.

When she stumbled across the government flats for civil servants she decided to face whatever challenges arose to provide the six children with shelter, she says.

She says after deductions from her salary, she is left with only N$3 819 per month to keep the family afloat.

"I sent a letter to the works ministry on 3 January last year to get accommodation, and they said when my position on the waiting list has moved up and accommodation becomes available they would call me," Antonius says.

"I understand I have entered the place without consulting the authorities, but it's winter and the Covid-19 times are quite unfriendly with the homeless. I had to do something for my kids," she says.

"I work for the Namibian Defence Force and believe I deserve the flats as much as any other employee," she says.

Ministry spokesperson Julius Ngwedha says Antonius "broke into government property".

"We have regulations on how things are supposed to be done," he says.

He says what Antonius did is wrong despite the fact that her name is on a waiting list.

"As much as we sympathise, we know as a ministry there is a problem with accommodation, particularly in Windhoek, but we as the government do not have enough accomodation," Ngwedha says.

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