Following the announcement early this month that the Groot Aub settlement is now incorporated as part of Windhoek, the residents with mixed feelings on the integration hope to finally have the taste of real development.
The dusty settlement that has minimal development lies 40 km from Windhoek on rout to Rehoboth has enjoyed an influx of people, seeking for both land and a better life. Groot Aub is now the district capital of the Windhoek Rural Constituency.
With a population more than 10 000, there is almost nothing for the people to survive on. There are no employment opportunities and most of the residents resort to commuting to and from Rehoboth or Windhoek for work.
The settlement has more troubles than a rural village ranging from no employment opportunities, lack of adequate services, alcohol and drug abuse, crime, thus wallowing in poverty.
No adequate services
Over 10 000 people use the services of one clinic that is open all day. However, the clinic cannot cater for the entire needs of the people at the expected time frames. “We suffer especially during emergencies. Some of us leave far from the clinic and when you get there, you are told that there is no ambulance. They then request for an ambulance that has to come all the way from Windhoek. Just imagine if you are involved in an accident and it is so bad – by the time the ambulance gets here, you will be dead,” expressed a tired Hilaria Angula.
With no sewage lines in most parts of the settlement, residents resort to using the nearest bushes out of sight when nature calls.
“We do not know how toilets look like in Groot Aub. I can probably count the number of buildngs that has toilets including the councilor’s office and they will not be more than 20. But we hope that since we are now part of Windhoek, the municipality will come to our rescue. It is just inhumane to still be using the bushes in an independent country,” Angula added.
The availability of water is another pressing matter that the settlement struggles with over the years. The settlement depends on water from the boreholes that are not accessible to everyone. Residents of Oshakati location have to walk long distances to get water from a nearby church or on the other side of town.
“If you do not have a friend that has a borehole, then you have nowhere to get water. Fortunately for us, we have a church that belongs to Prophet Elizabeth where we get water. It is only the churches that give us water here. Some individuals do not want to get water from their boreholes so we need the municipality to bring us water now that we are part of Windhoek,” said Jonas Hedimbi from the Oshakati location.
The settlement is known for water closure in the past, a crisis that irked residents to hand-dug boreholes. However, the influx of people in the town makes the demand for water an immediate necessity.
The settlement does also not have services such as a gas station and Automatic Teller Machines (ATM). Car owners have to fuel up their cars either in Rehoboth or Windhoek, full enough to drive back before the tanks empty.
Illegal land possession
The settlement has over the years been a land haven and leaving traditional authorities mainly taking responsibility to head the land allocation. Most residents who found themselves in the settlement have taken the abstract law into their own hands by erecting their shacks wherever they wanted.
The integration now means that residents will have to possess the right paperwork on how they acquired their land. This eventuality has frightened residents of what fate they will face when the process starts, afraid that their shacks will be doses as done in Windhoek.
“We are happy that we now have a municipality but we do not know what they will do us that who not gone through the right procedures in getting our land. We will however welcome it if they relocate us to a new place and not just demolish our houses,” said a worried resident.
Talks in the settlement are also that there are forces within the council offices who do not welcome the integration due to some members from the same council that have also acquired land illegally. The council in the past has opened criminal charges against land grabbers in Groot Aub. Whether culprits were ever brought to book remains the question that the residents are yet to get answer to.
The residents also highlighted that the bone of contention would be between the traditional authorities and the municipality when it comes to land. “Some of the land that people have here is ancestral land given to them by their families. It was the traditional authorities from Rehoboth that gave some people land when Rehoboth was still part of the Hardap region. And what is interesting is that these old laws have no yet been appealed. So it will be interesting to see who calls the shots when the municipality comes around,” said a community member who preferred anonymity.
No employment opportunities
The only operating businesses in the settlement are the bars, a brick making company and the sand mining company that has been under scrutiny. The mining of sand from the riverbed of the settlement has angered the unemployed residents who say their natural resources are being removed without any form of compensation.
With limited employment opportunities in the settlement, the resident find it hard to make ends meet. “We do not have jobs and even if you try to sell kapana on the side, you will not get customers because many of us do not have money already. We came from the north hoping for a better life but it is no difference here,” said Angula who works as a security guard.
Most of the residents from the settlement are employed at Omeya Golf Estate, which is a few kilometers out of the settlement and others work on the nearby farms. Otherwise, the rest commute to and from Windhoek or Rehoboth.
Seun Witbooi is employed in Windhoek at Checkers and said almost half of his salary goes to transport. With a salary of N$2000, he spends N$850 on transport. “When you come home and buy food and share the rest with my parents, I have nothing to save. It would have been different if I worked in Groot Aub so that I do not need to spend money on transport. Otherwise, I’m just working to enrich the Kombi driver.”
The residents hope that now that the settlement is part of Windhoek, they will get companies to come and employ them at home.
Rates and taxes
The intergration means this former settlement will now receive solid waste management, water, sewerage, electricity, public transport, emergency services and other services such as the City Police.
The coming of a municipality question lies as to whether the residents will be able to afford to pay for the services.
While residents feel that their basic services will now be catered for, the plague of unemployment might affect the smooth relationship between the municipality and the residents.
“We are worried about the affordability of water and electricity. We also know that the municipality will not just build sewage lines for us for free.
In the end, it will just be for those who can afford them. The rates and taxes will be a problem because most of the people here do not work.”
Others expressed their concern saying they welcome the municipality as long as they will operate in good faith saying as long as no houses will be demolished and everyone gets a place to call home.