When Namibia gained independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990, Namibia’s capital Windhoek was seen across the African continent as a mecca of excellence and hope of an emerging 21st century city. The early years marked a rapid growth of Windhoek. Houses were built; roads were constructed and recreational facilities were made available in a blink of an eye.
At first glance, Windhoek looked like the ideal city, with vast opportunities, both from a business and personal perspective.
However, since the turn of the century (from 2000), Windhoek has rather taken a downward spiral in terms of development.
As things stand, Windhoek’s population is growing at 3.1% annually (Census, 2011) as hundreds flocking to ‘city of many faces’ in search for better employment and education opportunities, a situation that has tremendously increased the demand for housing and land. Today, those living in Windhoek are confronted with roads that cannot accommodate both the human and vehicle population. At present, there about 350,000 vehicles while the human population stands at 325,858 according to the latest census report.
There have been no major road upgrades to cater for both human and vehicle population – you can only imagine our daily the current conflict on our city roads.
Another shortcoming of our City is the snail’s paced delivery and distribution land to the landless.
To add insult to injury, land prices in Windhoek are exorbitant that it has limited land accessibility to the elite, their cronies and the wealthy.
This reality has pushed Windhoek’s residents to the outskirts of the City where they are forced to live in the informal settlements or in backyard apartments where rent prices are nothing short of perplexing.
In addition to Windhoek’s endless shortcomings is the fear for one’s life – it is no longer safe on the streets of Windhoek, irrespective of where you find yourself. According to statistics, a total of 35 819 cases were reported in 2015 and 36 571 in 2016. Additionally, Windhoek recently lost its spot as Africa’s neatest city. Currently Windhoek stands at No.10 on the list. Furthermore, it will an injustice if we do not highlight the City’s growing debt and absence of prudent financial mechanisms in the Robert Kahimise-run city. Information at hand indicate that Windhoek is on a verge of insolvency, a step closer to being declared broke. As things stand, there is no immediate way out for the City out this economic predicament.
Despite this reality, the City is owed about N$600 million for services it provided for individuals, parastatals, government agencies and private companies.
According to officials, a possible remedy to the City of Windhoek’s financial crisis is to fast track its land sale programme. This would generate millions of dollars for the City, according to its management. What astounds me, however, is that with the current rate of land pricing, not many Namibians dare dream about owning land in Windhoek, let alone to buy it. Therefore, to revive Windhoek, going back to the drawing board is imminent. Where did we go wrong? The City should make an honest introspection as to where it went wrong; what the present needs are; how these needs can be met and what the future needs are. More so, what people did not realise at independence is that we inherited a clearly defined and designed apartheid city.
By this I mean, Windhoek was divided along racial lines. The whites lived in the suburbs with all amenities and services at their doorsteps.
Meanwhile, black Africans stayed in the township (Katutura), with limited services. Firstly, it should be noted that the process of dismantling apartheid cities is expensive and therefore requires efforts from local government, central government and private to work together as a team.
The City needs to rope in the private sector and town planners to work ways on how to make Windhoek more hospitable – this can be achieved by putting human interest at the heart of development instead of running the municipality like a business entity.