Saturday 17 April 2021
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Dibasen Community: a case study for government and nation

In the heart of Katutura, just between the noisy Eveline Street and the Goreangab location is a settlement created from the stubborn perseverance and true leadership exhibited by home owners in what has now become the well-known Dibasen Community.
True to its name Dibasen, which means ‘do it yourself” and the community is a lesson to what government and the nation at large can learn.
The Dibasen Community is a group of landless people, about 50, who collectively bought a piece of land in 1998. After years of struggle they managed to build houses on the plot they own,  however they could not get title deeds due to the fact that they own the land as a collective.
The Dibasen Community members needed funds to divide the property into 50 erven, a costly service. They reached out to the Office of The President for assistance.
The State House then called on Old Mutual for assistance and this is how the citizens managed to break the bureaucracy.
Old Mutual came in and funded for the Town Planning and Quantity surveying services. After this they are now individual owners of erven and will one day soon, they will have title deeds.
This is what committed home-deprived Namibians can do without depending on the government.
It is a story that speaks about hard work, perseverance and the determination of poor citizens who wanted nothing but a roof over their heads to call home. And although it took them 20 years to be like other home owners, this is a tale will go down to discourage those waiting on authorities and encourage entities to trust locals with land.
The then 28 years old Joseph Hoxobeb led the team of 50 through trials and tribulations. The Chairperson of the Dibasen Homeless Community with his team in 1998 decided to apply for a piece of land from the authorities.
With as little as N$1700 from each member of the community, Dibasen paid the deposit for their piece of land which they had to clear themselves.
They bought the land through the municipality and then they got Build Together loans to build their own houses. They are properly planned properties.
After clearing the un-serviced land and having got loans of N$20 000 each to build their homes, Hoxobeb emphasized that they had to make sure that they use the money to build 48 houses. The priority was to build houses with at least with both a roof and a floor and thereafter each would have to fork out extra money to complete their house.
Thereafter, they had to apply for individual water meters and electricity, which the community had to wait on for a few years before they got what they asked for.
At the point when construction was done, the first challenge was getting permission to subdivide. The current erf policy in Namibia stipulates that no title deed would be given to home owners with property smaller than 300 square meters.
“There were a lot of ups and downs working with so many people. Some people left the group,” said Hoxobeb.
“Although it took us 20 years to finally be home owners, we are happy with the outcome. There were many bottlenecks and bureaucracies but the right people saw the perseverance from our side and did not hesitate helping.
There were land surveyors, town planners and other stakeholders who got us to where we are today.
“But mostly, this is a sign that if people who want get it, they can really make their own houses. They will take on servicing as a collective and everything on their own,” emphasised a jubilant Hoxobeb.
Land Surveyor Joe Lewis had a hand in the completion of the community saying the survey work took two years.
“This whole case provides the ultimate case study for Mass Housing and for government to look into what can be done by people who are willing to take ownership of what they want. Give them the land and see what they will do with it. Help them to help themselves.
“Also, government should draw lessons from the experience of this community. You can build a home but to turn it into an asset is a challenge. Why does it take ten years? These are some of the lesson to draw,” said Lewis.
With having come to dead ends so many times but never giving up, today, every home owner of the Dibasen community has a title deed to their name.
Presidential Advisor on Constitutional Affairs and Private Sector Interface Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi had a hand in asking the corporates and experts to assist the community, and could only praise the Dibasen management for their commitment to finish what they started off.
“These are the types of groups that government is willing to help. People must take responsibility and ownership for their own development.  Government is there to facilitate those who take that responsibility but they must show resilience,” she said.
Zaamwani-Kamwi highlighted the groups leadership skill and having to endure for the long haul, while making reference to a code of conduct and constitution which the group drew up for guidance.
“It is also important to note that the Dibasen community did not get everything for free.
They had a savings club and surely they have to build their homes. So if you go halfway, government will take you the other way through,” she said.
The story of Dibasen is testament to the trials and tribulations of the willing. In the current state where buying stand alone erven can be costly, this provides an alternative option that others in informal settlements can equally explore.

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