Proliferation of Shacks Continues Unabated

As informal settlements continue to grow in Windhoek, the poorest of the poor continue to be affected by the lack of decent housing and unless drastic action is taken the future looks bleak for these people.

Windhoek has a 3.39 percent annual growth rate. But, informal settlements are growing at double the pace.

The rate at which Windhoek, particularly the informal settlements, is growing has put the Windhoek Municipality in a difficult position, which it cannot sustain, says the City of Windhoek.

A visit to Windhoek’s informal settlements bares the yearning desire the people have to own decent, modern shelter.

Some people continue to erect their shacks while hoping to find decent employment to sustain themselves.

Though children growing in those areas are not worried how their parents will put bread on the table, as they are still too young to comprehend their parents’ predicament, it is a different story for the adults.

“I feel bad that I cannot afford to live in a brick house,” says 31-year -old Magreth Noarises, who lives in a shack with her father, sister and two children. Noarises is a domestic worker in Hochland Park.

“I’m originally from the Omaheke Region. I just came to Windhoek in search of work in 2005 and I did not have a place to stay so when I saw people allocating themselves land, I also did the same,” says Noarises who lives in Kilimanjaro.

She says her father, who is a pensioner, rented shacks in the area for many years and in recent times paid N$250. But, he later decided to move in with Noarises, her two children and sister.

“Housing in Windhoek is expensive. My wish is for people to get decent houses depending on what they can afford,” says 65-year-old Tomas Shimbungu, a shack dweller.

Shimbungu came to Windhoek in 1995 in search of greener pastures and better living. But, he soon realised that life in the city without a decent job is no child’s play. Although Shimbungu receives a monthly old-age pension grant, the father of 11 also cleans people’s yards for a fee to supplement the pension.

He hopes to own a decent house one day. “I have three children who are still in school and they look up to me to provide for them. I am now a pensioner but the struggle continues,” says the relatively young-looking Shimbungu.

The energetic Shimbungu adds, “We want decent houses. We don’t even have electricity here. We don’t even have a taxi rank here and if we are to be dropped off here we pay N$30 because it is too far.”

Noarises who is Shimbungu’s neighbour interjects, “Namibia is independent. It is my hope that all people the taste the fruits of independence by having decent housing.

“I don’t think we will ever own brick (decent) houses. Maybe things will get better with time. But, my fear is if we are chased from our shacks where will we go. We don’t even have toilets where we are living currently.”

Another Kilimanjaro resident Ndilimeke Festus says, “There are too many poor people in Namibia. I doubt the poor will ever afford decent houses but still my hope is that we get decent houses one day.”

Johannes David, a member of the Moses Garoeumlb Constituency Development Committee – who is also a community leader in Havana – explains that informal settlements are growing fast primarily because people can settle on the land there at little or no fee. “If you have to use money, it’s just to pay for the zinc and poles,” David says.

According to David, who is also a shack dweller, the majority of those who live in informal settlements are unemployed. Besides, the general living conditions in informal settlements are cheap and even unemployed people and those with low income can survive without worrying about paying exorbitant rents, he adds.

Many people migrating to Windhoek in search of better living conditions “can’t afford to pay rent in areas like Soweto and Wanaheda. People can fetch wood from riverbeds to make fire and they can buy water for N$10 or N$20, which can last even for a week”, adds David.

The Namibian Constitution provides for the free movement of people and therefore, the solution to the expansion of informal settlements, according to Fillemon Hambuda, the Strategic Executive for Human Resources in the City of Windhoek, is to develop nationally and for government to improve its decentralisation agenda.

Hambuda says the real problem is serviced land and not so much housing. He explains that if people have their own piece of land they can develop it at their own pace as long as they know that they have land of their own. This, he notes, would be possible if the Flexible Land Tenure Act (Act No 4 of 2012) regulations are promulgated and gazetted.

The Flexible Land Tenure Act was drafted with the “poor of the poorest” in mind, Hambuda notes.

These people do not have the means to acquire land by themselves and hence organise themselves in (build together) groups in order to acquire land, he says.

They pool money together to pay the municipality in order for them to be allocated land on which they settle. “But, they don’t have any rights as individuals,” Hambuda says.

“The challenge of this is their children cannot inherit that piece of land and neither can they get much if they sell their share of the land because individuals do not have title deeds,” explained Hambuda.

“The Act was brought about to help these type of people,” he said.

“These type of people have no guarantee of getting a job but they can at least pass it (their land) on to their children,” Hambuda said.

“With the law, individual people in housing groups such as the Build Together will have title deeds and also their land would be serviced. By law, we cannot bring services to people who don’t have title deeds,” he says.

“As soon as the regulations (of the Flexible Land Tenure Act) are promulgated then we can start. It doesn’t depend on the City of Windhoek but on government,” Hambuda says, noting that buying a house is wealth creation.

Source : New Era