There is discomfort in Windhoek’s informal settlements as angry residents have called President Hage Geingob’s remarks this week an insult to the poor.
It was during a meeting with City of Windhoek (CoW)councillors at State House to address the inhumane living conditions that many Windhoek residents are subjected to in the informal settlements, that Geingob suggested that one alternative to combat urbanisation is that people must stay where they are born or come from.
Geingob was responding to questions from the media when asked ‘what the hopes are of a young student who comes to the city for schooling but could not afford the high renting price tags and could only resort to staying in the informal settlements?’
“Why don’t they stay where they are coming from? One solution is to stay where you are coming from. You have a home somewhere isn’t it?” the President said.
At the same occasion, the President shared his sentiments on the need to fix the situation in the informal settlements, saying the conditions in the informal settlements of Windhoek are inhumane, declaring it a national humanitarian crisis.
The president’s remarks were rather met with hostility as residents questioned Geingob if he as president was born in State House.
“We are not here because we just want to. We are here because we want better jobs, schools and a better life which we cannot get in the villages we were born. Was he [Geingob] born in State House? Why does he not go back and stay where he was born? This is really an insult from someone who will be coming to the informal settlements soon to look for votes,” said Laina Ndunge, a security guard.
Of Windhoek’s 350 000 residents, 131 000 people were living in informal settlements by 2018 according to City of Windhoek statistics presented the same day.
The figure was 48 000 in 2001. It is an open secret that the city’s shanty towns have experienced rapid growth over the years with masses flocking in by the day for employment, schooling or alternatively a better life.
The rapid population growth has been a headache to the City of Windhoek and its snail’s pace in the delivery of land has pushed many to occupy land illegally. The nation has subsequently witnessed occasions when the police were roped in to destroy shacks, leaving many homeless.
“Let them stay where they were born and where they are from. Free movement does not mean free just to do anything you want.
Even in the villages there are rules, you cannot just set up your place without going through the right procedures,” said Geingob.
A Namibia University of Science and Technology student who rents in the informal settlement blasted the president saying it is unlike the President not to know the situation on the ground. Aina Robert who came to Windhoek two years ago for university rents in the Havana settlements as it was the only cheap accommodation her grandparents could afford.
“I came here for school because there is no university in our village.
Secondly, I know that the president perhaps does not know the price of renting in Windhoek hence he thinks we come to the informal settlements by choice. I can afford to pay rent for N$500 per month in the ghetto instead of the thousands you will be asked. Develop the rural areas and we will stay where we are born,” said Robert.
Geingob is currently being blasted for his sudden interest in fixing the informal settlement with residents saying it is all political and an election ploy.
The President however dismissed this assertion saying the menu was part of the Land Conference resolution.
“Whether we are talking about the informal settlement because it is election year, the answer is no. Elections will come and we will face it. We will campaign to win,” said Geingob.
Residents in the informal settlements were however not convinced by Geingob’s statement saying it is all political.
“Politicians must stop taking us for a ride. Just the other day we hear NANSO got busses for students who are living in informal settlements.
The other day we saw the ministry of youth Permanent Secretary on TV talking about wonderful programs for the youth in the ministry. Now the President all of a sudden cares about people in the informal settlements. All this is being done at the beginning of the year before election at the end of the year.”
“We are not stupid. The last time we saw those politicians was during the last elections.
When we complain about services here in Havana, they say sometimes ambulances cannot come to our homes because we have built our houses at unplanned places. But just wait and see how all of a sudden it is easy for politicians to come to our places to host rallies. This is hypocrisy.
Politicians should stop feeding on our poverty to get what they want. This year, no house will be destroyed.
But wait and see after the elections. You will see them dressed like us telling us that they will do for us things in the next five years but they have failed for 29 years,” said Ndunge.
Discussions on whether or not to participate in the upcoming elections are making rounds in the informal settlements with many feeling the same people will give the same promises, but not deliver.