Urban and Rural Development Minister, Dr Peya Mushelenga (PM), recently graduated from the University of Namibia (UNAM) with a Master’s Degree in Law.
The Windhoek Observer’s Reporter, Chamwe Kaira (CK), asked him about his love for studying and the progress his ministry is making to complete the Mass Housing project, among other topics.
Mushelenga’s long list of degrees makes him the most educated Cabinet minister. His degrees include Bachelor of Arts (BA) in History and Political Studies, UNAM; Degree of Bacclareus Juris (B Juris), UNAM; Bachelor of Arts in Economics (BA Econ), Open University of Tanzania; Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in International Politics, University of South Africa (UNISA); Bachelor of Laws (LLB Hons), UNAM; Master of Arts (MA) in International Politics, UNISA; Master of Laws (LLM) in International Law, UNAM; Doctor of Literature and Philosophy (D Litt et Phil) in International Politics, UNISA.
He also has nine academic publications - three book chapters and six peer reviewed journal articles.
CK: What motivates you to study and what is the purpose of all these degrees?
PM: My late mother was a teacher and always motivated me to study. Further, the purpose is to broaden my knowledge as this is required when I render service to my country and people. I believe in life-long learning and that there is no limit to searching for knowledge.
CK: President Hage Geingob recently appointed you as the Minister of Urban and Rural Development; tell us about your experience in that portfolio thus far?
PM: I had a busy schedule as many local authorities, traditional authorities and the public had issues that needed to be attended to. I have acquainted myself with the issues relating to housing and visited six regions, where I held discussions with regional and local authorities’ councillors and their senior management. I have started to address governance issues in local authorities. I have also looked at some legislation that the ministry is responsible for and gave directions to my staff to look at possible law review.
CK: Where did you find time to study, given your responsibilities as deputy minister and now as a Cabinet minister?
PM: I study through distance education. It does not take up much time, but it requires self-discipline. For the courses where class attendance was required, I attended night classes. To make enough time for my studies, I cut out leisure time and reduced sleeping hours. When I travel long distances, by road or air, I do not sleep, but take my books to read or work on my assignments.
CK: You recently suspended the Rehoboth Town Council. What is your message to other local authorities who are always involved in squabbles?
PM: The governance system in Namibia, which includes local authorities, is premised on and guided by policies, laws and regulations, which must at all times be complied with, failing which there will be consequences and the culprits will be called upon to reckon. In terms of the Local Authorities Act, 1992, I, as the Minister of Urban and Rural Development have a duty and obligation to ensure that laws and policies pertaining to the urban and rural development sector in particular are enforced and complied to, and where they are ignored or contravened, I, in the public interest, am duty bound to ensure compliance, including through penal actions as it happened in respect of the Rehoboth Town Council.
In my statement on the occasion of the announcement of my decision to suspend members of the Rehoboth Town Council from office, I cautioned all local authorities that the Ministry and I as the Minister in particular will in future take swift action against any local authority whenever discipline, order, harmony and service delivery is at stake and in the interest of the public.
No cases of poor or lack of leadership, non-adherence and compliance to the provisions of the law, mismanagement and lack of accountability for public resources entrusted to a local authority council will be tolerated.
CK: From your experience so far in office, what is the cause of the constant infighting within local authorities and how do you intend to change such culture?
PM: In any environment where there are people, there is a chance for differences of opinions, which if not managed, can escalate to conflicts. The causal factors can be many, ranging from personality clashes to difference in professional views, interpretation and understanding of things.
My focus and duty is to ensure that people in the ministry and local authorities, know and are executing the duties and responsibilities that have been assigned and entrusted by law and the applicable regulations, which is to serve the people.
The instruments that the ministry has been employing and will continue to employ, include strict enforcement of the law, holding periodic stakeholders’ engagement and information sharing forums and ongoing inductions and capacity building initiatives, in partnership with external institutions such as NIPAM.
CK: What are some of the major decisions that you have made so far with full satisfaction?
PM: All decisions by a public office like my office have far-reaching implications and must at all times be well informed and made with full satisfaction. So all decisions that I have taken since assuming office at the ministry, whether published or internal, are well thought of and duly executed.
One such well publicised decision and action is the suspension of the Rehoboth Town Council and appointment of a care-taker minister’s representative to run the affairs of the council. The other decisions and actions that I have taken are not publicised, but have been executed and directed to the specific parties - local authorities, regional councils - concerned.
CK: What is the state of the Mass Housing Project at the moment and what is the way forward?
PM: Since assuming the responsibility of direct management of the implementation of the Mass Housing Development Programme (MHDP), the government through the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, has been focusing on ensuring the completion of the construction, allocation and sale of the completed houses.
The ministry, with technical support from the Ministry of Works and Transport and appointed private principal agents or project management consultants, is overseeing the construction component, while the National Housing Enterprise has been entrusted to allocate and mortgage the completed houses.
The construction of houses has progressed well and has been completed at all project sites, except for a few sites such as the Windhoek Otjomuise Extension 10, where houses are complete, but have not yet been certified as practically complete due to outstanding town planning requirements and the installation of bulk services. Others are two sites in Swakopmund, where work has stopped.
In the one case, this is due to a legal dispute between the main contractor and the sub-contractor, a matter which ended up in court. The other case, the ministry has taken a decision to cancel the contract due to persistent breach on the part of the contractor.
The ministry also terminated a contract with a contractor who was appointed to build houses in Opuwo due to non-performance. A new contractor is being procured to take over the project.
In terms of allocation of completed houses, overall, all the completed social houses (houses meant for lower income earners and are financed and bonded by the Government through NHE) have been handed over to applicants and beneficiaries.
The only delay in the handing over of completed MHDP houses experienced, is in respect of credit-linked houses, which house type were initially being sold to applicants who are able to secure and be provided with home loans or mortgage financing from commercial financial institutions. The delay is largely attributed to lengthy bank loan approval processes, rejection of home loan applications and unwillingness on the part of some of the banks/financial institutions to extend the loans to applicants and beneficiaries who were approved and allocated houses by NHE in general and especially in areas such as Karasburg and Khorixas. This has, in turn, resulted in serious delays in the sale of the available or completed credit-linked houses.
In response to this challenge, the Cabinet directed NHE to assume the role of administering the mortgaging of credit-linked houses on the same terms as social houses, thus taking over the role that was initially available to commercial banks.
Going forward, our strategy on housing delivery will encompass a mixture of funding models with limited or targeted funding from the government and more public-private partnerships and affordable structured financing to local authorities from commercial institutions.