Job well done
Both President Hage Geingob and the leaders of the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement have been praised for reaching an agreement on addressing the housing crisis.
The breakthrough came just a week before a deadline set by AR leaders Job Amupanda, George Kambala and Dee Nauyoma. They had threatened that their huge following of landless Namibians would illegally occupy land if the government did not come up with a solution.
The three activists led the mass submission of over 50 000 plot applications to local authorities.
Commentators have warned that this project should not fail like the Mass Housing Project brainchild of Geingob’s predecessor Hifikepunye Pohamba, which was put on hold because of a lack of funds.
On Friday Geingob met with the three AR leaders and their entourage of young lawyers and land activists for a six-hour meeting behind closed doors at State House.
The Head of State was joined by vice-president Nickey Iyambo, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Justice Minister Albert Kawana, Minister of Safety and Security Charles Namoloh and his successor at Urban and Rural Development, Minister Sophia Shaningwa, and the Minister of Lands, Utoni Nujoma.
The chief of police, Inspector-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, and presidential economic advisor John Steytler also joined the discussion, which many have described as the first of its kind in Namibia.
Political commentator Kaire Mbuende said Geingob went out of his way to engage with the AR leadership.
“This shows the seriousness attached to the whole question of land and stability in the country,” said Mbuende.
“When you have 25 years of stability, you do not want to give the impression of instability because of issues that threaten that stability.
“Anything which threatens that stability should be addressed quickly because of the premium confidence of international observers and investors and the country’s ratings.”
Mbuende added that the question whether the AR would have garnered enough support to grab land on July 31 is a debate for another day.
Legal expert Nico Horn said all Namibians are happy about the agreement.
“It is a great thing for the President to come up with something meaningful and it is on the table. At the same time it is encouraging to know that the AR leaders are not just in it for the sympathy of the people and hence agreed on a solution,” said Horn.
“This was a meaningful negotiation with meaningful results. It is very idealistic and it’s very good for government to think big things.”
After extensive dialogue the two sides agreed that the July 31 deadline would be called off and the government committed itself to immediately start working on plans to service 200 000 plots countrywide.
It is believed that this target would not only meet the immediate housing need, but would also have an effect on housing prices by changing the ratio between supply and demand.
Under the Massive Urban Land Servicing Project, as it will be known, the period between July 29 and 5 August will be dedicated to a nationwide clearance of identified urban land.
“Namibians will be called upon to voluntarily participate in servicing identified urban land for future allocation,” a joint statement received from State House said.
A technical committee, including AR representatives will be established to work out all the modalities of the project.
According to a statement released by the AR at the weekend, some of the other points of agreement include regulation of the property market and that people in communal land must now get title deeds to their land.
It was also agreed that the Squatters Proclamation 21 of 1985, which allows for arbitrary evictions of people from their homes, should be repealed and replaced.
“As previously explained, the AR Housing Charter 31 chastised the anarchy and manipulation of housing prices in the property market,” the land activists said.
“As was agreed that the property industry will be regulated, an institution was proposed by the Charter that will control the prices. It was agreed that such an institution is essential and should be established.”
According to the AR, it was also agreed that Cabinet must act swiftly to prescribe tariffs for estate agents.
“It was agreed that a state-owned institution to provide housing loans to people at affordable rates be established.”
Mass Housing lessons
According to the statement there was consensus that the country is not seeing returns from the National Housing Enterprises (NHE) for the purpose it was established.
The NHE was tasked with implementing the Mass Housing Project announced by Pohamba in 2013.
At the time Pohamba said the government would allocate N$45 billion for the construction of 185 000 houses over a period of 18 years.
However, when Shaningwa took over as minister responsible for housing, she put the project on hold following controversies and the government is now being sued for non-payment by some contractors.
Mbuende said the Mass Housing Project failed because contractors inflated the profit margins, which he described as “absurd”.
He advised that the Massive Urban Land Servicing Project should not fall into the same pit.
WINDHOEK ELVIS MURARANGANDA