August 25, 2011

Stay of execution for squatters

Deputy Mayor, Juuso Kambueshe, says the municipality will not press ahead with a legal action to uproot 300 people occupying a piece of land illegally in the Democratic Resettlement Community (DRC) - despite advice by the Erongo police that they could do so. Kambueshe is supported by other councillors who, despite agreeing that the group is illegally occupying the land, prefer a non-legal solution to the squatter problem.

While the coastal town continues to grapple with land for residential development especially for first time entrants and low income earners in low-income settlement areas, Kambueshe says it is still no excuse for residents to occupy municipal land illegally - a stance also supported by Swakopmund Mayor Rosina //Hoabes. Both Kambueshe and //Hoabes argue that the acquisition of land in the town is a burning and critical issue. "But it must be borne in mind that there are other factors that complicate and influence available land in our town," the mayor said. According to the duo, if members of the public go about acquiring land illegally, "we will have an ugly situation that we cannot control" noting that discussions are always the best form of remedy. The ugly situation is the forced removal of the squatters which Kambueshe does not favour at all.

Forced removal by the municipality had to be discarded at the last minute in July following consultations with the illegal settlers. In June, the Swakopmund Town Council had to summon the Erongo Regional Police Commandeer Festus Shilongo to address the residents who occupied the land illegally. The residents moved into the area saying they are tired of waiting for what they say are empty promises by councillors to provide them with land.

The area they had settled on was designated by council as Progressive Development Area (PDA), an area for low-income housing projects for residents of the DRC settlement - wishing to upgrade from shacks to better housing. But the council has so far treated the matter with velvet gloves - attempting peaceful dialogue as opposed to forceful removal - saying they are to blame for letting the situation out of hand in the first place. Sources inside council stressed that it is a "political calculation as forced removal of 300 can have a negative impact on the council's popularity". "It is a wake-up call that the people are stressing us to deliver on the promises of providing serviced land for them," said Kambueshe. In an address to the Municipality at a council meeting, Shilongo emphasized that land- grabbing in Swakopmund has the potential to become a "runaway" problem - unless councillors do something about it quickly. Advised Shilongo: "I hope that council shall take a stand against the violators and will be laying formal charges against them in the interest of the laws of the Republic of Namibia." Shilongo feared that if left too late - it would be difficult to turn the tide against illegal land occupiers. "Any comprehensive agenda to eliminate lawlessness and unethical behaviour must be addressed as a matter of urgency and should set examples to would-be offenders in the future." (The Namibian)

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