One of the 12 Swapo Party councillors serving on the 15-member City of Windhoek (CoW) Council says he is embarrassed by the decision taken this week by the City Police to demolish shacks of residents at Otjomuise’s 7de Laan informal settlement. CoW councillor, Paulus Immanuel, accused the City Police of taking action without approval when he spoke to this publication this week. “There was no court order and we did not approve that as councillors. They demolished the shacks at their own discretion. It is a shameful act. City Police operates as an entity on its own, forgetting that it is only a department in CoW like any other department,” he charged. The Swapo Party Youth League this week warned Swapo councillors to guard against taking actions that might backfire and cost the party votes during elections. Referring to the recent dismantling of shacks by City Police at 7de Laan, Nekundi said such actions meant that the Swapo councillors were “oppressing the voting masses”. “The SPYL is concerned that some local government institutions such as the City of Windhoek, where Swapo councillors are in the majority, are oppressing the voting masses of Swapo. Their [Swapo councillors] actions are leading our people to hate the party, thereby weakening our party; the party we trust,” charged Nekundi at a SPYL press conference on Wednesday. Nekundi further pointed out that recent activities such as the closing down of illegal car washes in Windhoek were among the actions that can weaken Swapo, as it affects the “black” voting masses. “We must be mindful that the actions of certain institutions will have direct effects on the people’s voting choices come election time.
To this, we condemn and submit our complete objections of any institutional decision that has no regard for the masses and call for an end to the inhuman treatment of our people,” cautioned Nekundi. Other “ill-advised and inhuman” actions observed by the Swapo Party are the closure of car washes in Katutura by the Windhoek municipality; the breakdown of Ishitile welding business and the forceful removal of “enterprising youth from their livelihoods and places where they trade their skills instead of stealing” and being on the street according to Nekundi. “We urge the party leadership at national, regional and local authority levels to direct political decisions and timely intervene on matters affecting our people,” further noted Nekundi. Meanwhile, High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele on Wednesday evening ordered the City of Windhoek (CoW) to provide Christine Likuwa with alternative accommodation after her shack was demolished by the City Police. Ueitele said he could not postpone the case brought before him if Likuwa, a “single mother” of three had to prepare her two school-going children from an “open space, without food, water and shelter over their heads”. While ruling over an urgent court application during the late hours of Wednesday, a clearly traumatised Ueitele said the CoW “must” provide Likuwa with “suitable” accommodation pending the outcome of the case. “The postponement has been granted but the respondent (CoW) must arrange alternative accommodation for Ms Likuwa,” Ueitele ruled. In the same way, Ueitele ruled that the “status quo” must remain as it is at 7de Laan. This means that the CoW through its law enforcement division (City Police) will not remove any shacks or evict people until the matter is resolved.
Likuwa and 14 other applicants made an urgent court application, which was spearheaded by the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement, citing that they were “illegally” evicted from their premises in 7de Laan. According to the applicants, their forced removal was illegal because the City Police did not have a court order to vacate them. Moreover, Senior Superintendent of City Police, Gerry Shikesho – who headed the operation that dismantled the shacks in 7de Laan, seems to have landed in hot water over utterances that he allegedly made. Among the allegations, Shikesho is accused of having said that he does not need a “court order to evict” people in Windhoek. This, according to Ueitele, is a “very” serious allegation to which Shikesho has respond. During the court proceedings, Kadhila Amoomo, who represented the applicants, requested that the court direct the City of Windhoek to provide the other 14 applicants with alternative accommodation. However, Ueitele declined Amoomo’s request, citing that from the 15 applicants, only Likuwa indicated her “unique” circumstances through her affidavit. “I am going to single out Ms Likuwa, she’s a single mother, she has three children, she has been staying there for three months and has nowhere to go. She (Likuwa and her children) slept in the open, postponing will expose her to crime so I will ask the City (CoW) to arrange alternative accommodation as soon as possible,” stressed Ueitele.
AR steps in
Speaking to the evicted families shortly after the court ruling, Affirmative Repositioning’s Job Amupanda said all Namibians are entitled to own a house in the country of their birth irrespective of their economic status. “This is your country, you never applied to be born here and it’s your government, which you voted for. In fact, the Namibian Constitution states in Article 95 that the government must facilitate an environment for citizens to debate its policies. “So what you are doing as citizens in asking for a place to call home is correct. The problem here (in Namibia) is that if you are poor, then you don’t matter,” charged Amupanda.Amupanda further noted that the events which transpired will have a permanent psychological impact on the children who “hopelessly and helplessly” watched their homes being destroyed by the City Police. “If you have a three-year-old child, who watches their house being demolished, that child will never forget that in their life. “Even when that child goes to school, he will be remembering and seeing his father being helpless because the person who is destroying the father’s [house] is a police officer,” lamented Amupanda. Amupanda also rubbished allegations by some sectors of the public that AR is funded by certain international groups and political parties in order to advance its agendas. “We are only assisting poor people; we are not assisting them from any political party or any group. We want our people to have houses because poverty does not know any political party. “We are not interested in those things, after this you will hear them say AR had a rally in 7de Laan; they always try to create propaganda,” charged Amupanda.
According to statistics provided by the Namibia Statistics Agency, more than 500 000 Namibians live in informal settlements countrywide. In a statement earlier this year, AR lamented the lack “interventions” by central government and local authorities to address the housing backlog. “(There are) no interventions on the part of government and local authorities to decisively assist our people in informal settlements, who are still without basic services”.Recently, the Rally for Democracy and Progress Secretary General, Mike Kavekotora, labelled the Mass Housing Scheme as a “political project”, which has failed to solve the housing problems of the ordinary Namibian.