Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein, says Treasury has no problem compensating families whose houses were demolished by the Katima Mulilo Town Council, if it is found that demolition of the illegal structures was not done according to the law.
This comes after the Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sophia Shaningwa, announced last week in Parliament that the demolitions carried out by the Katima Mulilo Town Council were illegal.
According to the law, the town council was supposed to have first acquired a court order giving it permission to proceed with the demolitions. The affected residents claim this was not done.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Windhoek Observer this week, Schlettwein said that if there is a legal requirement to compensate Katima Mulilo residents whose houses were illegally demolished by the town council, then Government must respond within the existing procedures and structures.
He, however, said that while the stance to compensate [if legally obliged to do so] is correct in principle, Government should thoroughly look at it in detail and engage as well as test whether that right does exist and to what extent it obliges Government to pay compensation and what amount.
“We cannot just out of the blue say money should be made available. There is a process that dictates how public funds are managed, sourced and decided who gets what,” he said.
The Katima Mulilo Town Council demolished homes in the settlements of Choto, Cowboy, Dairy, Maravan East and West and in Mahohoma, amid allegations that the houses were constructed by people with no legal title to the land.
Houses constructed without council’s approval or building plans were also targeted.
Hundreds of houses have to date been demolished in an exercise that started beginning of October with the removal of about 100 illegal structures in Lwanyanda area.
Residents in the areas affected have blamed the newly appointed town Chief Executive Officer, Raphael Liswaniso, for their predicament, while council has maintained that the residents were informed through public meetings and radio broadcasts that it would demolish all illegal structures in the town and all houses built without council approval.
Katima Mulilo Mayor, Georgina Mwiya-Simataa, was quoted by the Namibian Economist saying that residents were warned about constructing illegal dwellings.
She said that the council wanted to start constructing low cost houses in these areas, however, the process proved futile as “illegal occupants blocked all council efforts to provide the needed services.”
Mwiya-Simataa added that the town council gave the residents 14 days to vacate the area and that the demolishing of these houses was done lawfully as a case of illegal occupation was opened with the Namibian Police Force.
Last week, Attorney General, Sackeus Shangala, highlighted the un-procedural and possibly precipitous actions of the Katima Mulilo Town Council and suggested that compensation could be considered as a remedy.
He, however, did not approve the land grab by the Katima residents nor give a legal opinion on whether legal eviction was inevitable.
He followed up his announcement by sending a letter to Shaningwa listing the procedures that town councils have to follow when taking back land that has been illegally occupied.
In the letter, Shangala stated that previously, local authorities legally relied on the apartheid era, Squatters Proclamation, 1985 particularly 4(1) and 4(3) which did not require a court order or prior notice of whatever nature before demolitions of squatters.
Shanghala clarified that those colonial era sections were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013 and local authorities now should first get a court order before removing squatters.
The demolitions in Katima Mulilo have since been stopped as Government debates the way forward.