• Housing challenges
• Residents owe municipality N$52 million
• Learners use candle light to study
• Informal population on the rise
• Housing waiting list over 2000
• Unoccupied mass houses, despite housing crisis
The ugly face of poverty has similarities all over the country, with the most common social challenges being sanitation shortcomings, unemployment, housing shortage and mushrooming informal settlements continuing to plague the nation.
In the southern town of Keetmanshoop, hundreds of informal settlers living at Illeni’s settlements have to fend off the hardships of poverty on a daily basis.
Those who live in the informal settlement are hopeful that one day they will have a decent shelter over their heads, but the cost of land and houses continues to block that dream from becoming a reality.
During a visit to the town this week, the Keetmanshoop municipality singled out the provision of housing as one of its primary targets, although financial limitations is threatening the process.
The suspension of the Mass Housing programme has not made things easier either, the municipality’s spokesperson Dawn Kruger said. The municipality has a housing waiting list topping 2000, but there is no serviced land.
With the town being allotted 320 houses under the mass housing programme, only 65 of those have been completed.
“The 65 are unoccupied until the Urban and Rural Development ministry gives us a directive as to how we must disburse the houses. We also did not install electricity in the completed houses because we fear that the community might vandalise the property,” Kruger said.
Kruger further indicated that: “A preliminary list of intended recipients, based on affordability, has been sent to the Ministry of Local Government and Housing for approval. This preliminary list was based on a 50% subsidy from Government, but in the interim Government indicated that the 50% subsidy is revoked and the Municipality is currently awaiting directive on the way forward. No such directive has been received yet.”
She pointed out that the municipality signed an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry in which the ministry agreed to advance an amount of N$15 million to the municipality to service about 200 erven in Noordhoek.
“The amount should be repaid to the ministry as and when the erven are sold to the successful buyers. The project is currently at a stage where the supervising engineer will be appointed after consultations with the ministry. The project is expected to be completed by end of June 2016,” Kruger said.
Ileni settlement, an informal settlement on the outskirts of the town were most of the unemployed live, has a population of about 400 people.
There is no electricity at the settlement and only one tap with running water.
Residents have expressed disappointment saying the water is not available during the day.
““Even if you try opening that tap now, there is no water. There is water in the early morning hours only and we basically stay the whole day without water. At times it will only come back the following day,” said one of the residents Renate Skrywer on Tuesday afternoon as she opened the community tap which did not have running water.
Kruger however disputed the claim that residents in Illeni settlement have to do without water during the day.
“We supply water to the whole town supplied from the three municipal reservoirs. The reservoirs are still in good condition and with periodic maintenance, their lifetime can be extended,” he said.
On the sanitation front, the settlement only has 3 toilets for the 400 populace, meaning at least 133 people have to share a toilet.
All three toilets are broken and await repairs by the municipality’s maintenance team.
“At night we are forced to make use the bucket system because it is not safe to walk to the bushes,” Skrywer said.
The residents also complained that the three streetlights are not enough, especially when considering the fact that only one is in a working condition.
“It is unsafe especially during month end. When people get drunk they even throw stones at our houses and at times if a child is found outside they can be injured, but there is nothing you can do because you do not know who committed the act,” Esmerilda Goliath, another resident of Ileni settlement said.
She was also not happy with the electricity supply because “school going children in the area are forced to study under candle lights”.
“Electricity is also a big problem because at times all the streetlights do not work. Since January three shack fires were recorded and two lives were lost,” she said.
Refuse removal is also another awry process, as residents claim their refuse can go uncollected for a month.
To solve the electricity situation in the town, Kruger said the only viable solution at this point is the establishment of an electrical department at the Keetmanshoop Municipality to take over the electricity distribution function.
The municipality revealed that residents who make use of municipal services currently owe the municipality over N$52 million.
“There is a serious need to recover this outstanding debt as them municipality is experiencing cash flow problems. The municipality is looking into the possibility of contracting an independent debt collection agency to collect this debt on behalf of the municipality on a commission basis,” Kruger said.
She also said the municipality has received requests to write off community debts as some residents cannot afford to service their debts.
According to the council, the possibility of establishing a Community Development Trust that will be tasked to seek for donor assistance for vulnerable groups will also be explored.
Approved the sale of land in Tseiblaagte to the Ministry of Works for the construction of a sub-police station. A decision was also taken to sell a portion of town lands no. 150 (golf park), to the Namibian Training Authority for the establishment of a vocational training centre.
The Office of the CEO has received numerous requests to write off outstanding municipal debts, mostly from occupants of Alienation Scheme houses. The original owners of these houses have passed away and relatives are unable to pay the outstanding debts and can thus not transfer the properties into their names.
The municipality requested approval from the Minister of Urban and Rural Development to write off the outstanding debt of deceased Alienation scheme home owners to speed up the transfer process.