Stepping out of his well-guarded office on busy Friday morning at the municipal headquarters- a day on which many would be relaxed anticipating the weekend, Kazapua seemed busy as ever. During the week he had already attended several events in the City while at the same time paying attention to the happenings in the Swapo Party Youth League-of which he is a member.
Juggling between politics and running Windhoek can never be an easy task, but Kazapua is cognizant of the fact that “party activities and responsibilities are part of the duties of any elected political leadership around the world and not unique to Windhoek.”
“As Councillors, we are not only politicians or party representatives on council, but public servants who should account to the residents of the city, irrespective of their party affiliation. Therefore, after taking oath as Councillors, we ought to set party politics aside, and focus our efforts on service delivery. We however, remain guided by our party’s Manifesto and national development agendas,” said Kazapua who to a certain extent is pretty-much the face of the ruling party where the municipality is concerned.
Kazapua, who despite being mayor, maintains that he is a staunch activist.
“Being raised in an impoverished and previously disadvantaged communities, meant he automatically grew up a community activist. For this reason, I became a youth activist at a rather tender age and grew through political ranks until I became a City Councillor. Notwithstanding, the aforementioned, I believe restoration of dignity is a fundamental right for all human beings,” he narrated.
Many however question his activism credentials, especially when considering the municipality-sanctioned shack demolitions under the Kazapua-administration and challenges when it comes to providing affordable land to the Windhoek population which has increased to over 300 000 over the years.
Responding to questions as to what he makes of the notion that his administration has failed when it comes to land provision, affordable basic services and to help small enterprises to thrive, Kazapua smiled brazenly in disapproval of the notion.
“I hope so far from our discussion you have a vivid understanding of the inadequacies the City Council has been faced with amidst increased service demands. It is therefore equally important for the public to understand the intricacies and the environment within which municipal service delivery has to be rendered. In short, it will be impossible to render adequate basic municipal services and amenities, without corresponding financial resources being made available,” said the 37-year-old mayor.
Kazapua also pointed out that unemployment, poverty and inequality are “phenomena’s that are not only confined to Windhoek.”
“It has its roots in the years of apartheid and colonialism, a dark period of our history that was characterized by systematic exclusion and discrimination on the basis of colour and race. We should thus appreciate that since independence our Government at all levels continued to address this apartheid legacy through various policy interventions, amongst others, SME grants, empowerment and affirmative action,” said Kazapua who has seemingly taken up a technocratic approach.
While acknowledging that Namibia still has a long way to go, he said the country should not shy away from celebrating the progress made so far because “Namibia has not gone wrong anywhere and that the country remains on course.”
Despite Kazapua’s optimism about the future prospects in the City and the country at large, the city continue to face a barrage of criticism alleging that the city authorities neglects the poor, black majority and it only focuses on catapulting Windhoek to become a modern city overnight.
One thing that came out clearly during the interview with Kazapua is that fact that despite his efforts to help the poor, his grand dream is “to see Windhoek becoming an international smart city where all citizens have access to services and amenities and enjoying quality of life.
To achieve this, Kazapua and his team will have to overcome certain challenges.
Kazapua said his key challenge in office remains lack of corresponding financial resources, adequate services.
“Such include water, electricity, sanitation and affordable housing. Coupled with these, is the affordability levels amongst the low income citizens. You may be aware that Windhoek does not receive Government grants or subsidies,” he said worryingly.
Despite the challenges said: “We acknowledge with appreciation central Government financial support through TIPEEG, Mass Housing and Massive Land Delivery Projects. However, these reach out interventions are rather sporadic in nature, as they came in the time of crisis management. The ideal formula would have been that treasury transfers are guaranteed through national legal framework as a commonly practiced worldwide. Our plea is that Government finances major capital expenditures of local authorities so that annual increases on property rates and taxes, water and electricity can be mitigated.”
“Thus, the hardest decision is when we have to pass on cost recovery increases in municipal tariffs, to enable sustainable supply of water, electricity, maintenance of existing infrastructure in the face of poverty and unemployed citizenry which already has difficulties to make ends meet.”
As the biggest town in the country, the City of Windhoek is working, but that surely depends on which side of the fence you are seated.
Opponents of the Kazapua-administration continue to make claims that the city is failing and not doing anything to bridge the gap between the poor and rich, but the mayor pointed to initiatives and plans undertaken to grow the City. Kazapua maintains strongly that “We can safely pride ourselves as having been able to maintain the standard of service delivery levels amidst severe shortage of resources. Compared to many cities in the region, Windhoek continue to deliver reliable services, such as water and electricity, our roads are of good standards, and public safety is maintained by the City Police’s quick response.”
He said it is unfortunate that there are some who feel not much is being done to help the poor.
“That is an unfortunate sentiment to say the least. Council have adopted pro-poor policies which includes, formalization of informal settlements, exempting elderlies and destitute from paying bus fares and write-off of pensioners municipal debts, providing trading spaces for the SME sector at various community market, feeding programs and soup kitchen, carrying the cost for the Old Aged Homes in Katutura and Khomasdal. Recently we resolved to sell 100 residential plots to the youth; we are embarking upon a construction of 79 affordable houses in Khomasdal Ext 16, just to mention a few.”
The youthful mayor also reiterated past calls on landless people to desist from grabbing land.
“Land grabbing hampers orderly planning as the same land that should be developed into housing is illegally occupied. I appeal to the public to desist from these counter progressive activities, to allow land to be serviced for housing development through the current Government initiatives and Council Township Development,” he said.
Windhoek continues to be a victim of urbanization and the leadership in the City has over the years struggled to keep up with the influx of people from other towns which has subsequently led to the mushrooming of informal settlements.
Currently, an estimated 87 000 of the 325 858 Windhoek population live in informal settlements. But estimates indicate that the figure will increase to 116 000 this year.
To best tackle urbanization Kazapua said the ideal intervention would be fast tracking the decentralization process, through social economic activities and taking services to upcoming Town, villages and settlements.
“We must acknowledge that this process took off, but at a snail pace. Another is to implement reforms that would provide guaranteed Government funding of local authorities.
Kazapua last year expressed concern over the snail’s pace at which government is moving to operationalise the Flexible Land Tenure Act.
In the absence of the Act, those living in informal settlements have access to land but not security of tenure because some live on invaded municipal land and can therefore not use the land on which they live to raise capital.
Speaking during his presentation on the role of land reform in the eradication of poverty in Namibia last year, Kazapua said flexible land tenure is needed to guarantee security of tenure to those living in informal settlements.
“It is our view as a city that the passing of the regulations is taking too long, as informal settlements are growing on a daily basis,” he said at the time.
But as mayor, Kazapua has tried to balance the challenges with creating the building blocks for addressing the far greater structural problems facing the city, with the formalization of informal settlements and reviewing the spatial development framework of the City which entail land use and other town planning issues remains a core part of City of Windhoek’s future plans.