20. November 2014

Debate about land issues and release of opinion poll before elections

Former deputy Prime Minister Libertina Amathila has reminded the nation that the land crisis in the country was much worse after independence in comparison to the recent situation.

Amathila, who is renowned for her commitment towards land and housing, was speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of over 1 000 houses outside Okahandja yesterday.

She urged the nation not to forget the days when the majority of Namibians were homeless just after independence. “People tend to forget where we are coming from concerning housing. We always hear nothing has changed. We found a serious situation of housing in Namibia at independence,” she said.

Amathila reminded the audience that thousands of Namibians were squatting and displaced in the early 1990s. “I even found people sleeping in cemeteries. Some were living in river beds. The situation was dire,” she recalled.

She said the government that was sworn in at independence made housing a priority, followed by health, education, water and sanitation.

At the same occasion, Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba reiterated his stance on the recent land-grabs in Windhoek, calling it a sign of poor leadership.

Mbumba ordered leaders to refrain from grabbing land, saying land seizures should not be condoned. His warning comes after the former Swapo Party Youth League member Job Amupanda's recent land-grab in Kleine Kuppe that sparked widespread reaction last week.

Mbumba said the land crisis in the country has been receiving a lot of attention lately, particularly in the media.“It seems the media have been reporting on very little else - but it is a critical issue that involves a basic human right,” he said.

Mbumba also urged local authorities to exercise caution and be lenient before demolishing shacks and evicting people from their homes. “They (the poor) are forced to live in such conditions because of unemployment. Evictions will only heighten their sense of hopelessness,” he said.

Meanwhile, an Afro barometer study revealed that 80% of Namibians vote out of loyalty and not for service delivery. This means that the Swapo party wins elections by a landslide because of empathy and not because people are satisfied with its service delivery.

The Afro barometer is a comparative series of public attitude surveys, which measures citizens' attitudes on democracy and its alternatives, evaluations of the quality of governance and economic performance. The current series - Round 6 - is for the period between August and September 2014 covering up to 35 African countries. The study was launched in Windhoek yesterday by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), which coordinated the field work.

It reveals that 70% of Namibians think government has failed to create enough jobs and lists unemployment, poverty, land and housing as the biggest problems. The study also attributes this thinking to the high unemployment rate, which was revised downwards from 51,2% to about 27%. Furthermore, the study shows that 80% do not agree with salary increases for office bearers and think that too much emphasis has been given to party loyalty over service delivery.

The same percentage also thinks the government has failed to arrest the persistent inequality gap, which is among the worst in the world.

The key findings of the study include strong public support for the government's policies on education, health and managing the economy. The study also found that people are satisfied with the basic health services offered by government as well as education. Sixty five percent believe government is handling corruption very badly if at all.

Namibians think the economy has been well managed but agree at the same time that government should introduce a basic income grant, even if it means increasing taxes. Also key to the study is the conclusion that there should be reform on how government handles tenders to avoid nepotism and favouritism.

It concludes by saying that Namibians relate democracy to personal freedoms (speech, movement, organisation membership and access to information). (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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