A group of disgruntled residents from Okahandja's informal settlements took to the streets on Friday to demand their petition back from the town's Mayor, in order to submit it to the head of state, following an alleged lack of interest from the town's leadership in addressing their concerns.
Led by their community activist leader, Sethy Gariseb, chanting 'We want land! Down councillors!' the group marched from the town's informal settlement to the municipality building in the central business district, demanding the return of their petition. The petition urged the municipality to address their plea for land and municipal services.
In the petition submitted to the municipality in July 2022 and the minister of urban and rural development in March 2023, residents demanded the provision of water, electricity, and all other basic municipal services in the informal settlements. The petition also calls for relevant authorities to clarify who is entitled to own a piece of land and who qualifies for municipal services.
'We are tired, and because they are not acknowledging the petition, we want to take our petition to the President... so that the President can see which doors we have exhausted. The streets are dark, our children are being raped,' stressed Gariseb.
Land grabbing continues unabated in the once eminent 'Garden Town,' with many landless people occupying unserviced municipal land in the fast-growing illegal informal settlements, including Promise Land, Virgenoeg, Dom Lokasie, Oshetu, RCC camp, Five Rand, and Sweet Village.
At the protest, Okahandja Mayor Kaunapawa Fillemon handed over the petition while refusing to make any comments on the matter. 'I am just here to hand over the petition... I don't have anything to say,' she said.
Anna Fredricks, a resident of Promise Land and one of the first settlers on the unserviced land since 28 June 2020, shared that eviction from their former landlord due to nonpayment led them to occupy the unserviced municipal land illegally.
'I had nowhere to go as a mother of four. So, my aunt and I decided to set up our caravan here, and we started living here. Since then, many landless people have found their homes in Promise Land. People are calling us illegal since we don't have Erf numbers, so when are they planning to legalize us?' she asked.
Gariseb said that they are planning to hand over the petition to the Office of the President in two weeks' time.
Source: The Namibian Press Agency