Think, talk and then act

25 January 2019
Author   Eliakim N Silvanus
The population of our country is increasing fast and many people are flocking to larger towns where they believe they can find work and have access to daily services. But, the Namibian economy is struggling and this is a major problem in today’s life.
The fact is, services are not easily available; jobs are almost impossible to find and housing is scarce.  Many, who flock to towns seeking a ‘better’ life than back at their traditional homes, find frustration instead.
Housing is one area that shows this problem well.  I understand the law prevents illegal land grabs, but the recent decision by the Ondangwa Town Council to demolish three shacks without informing the residents, is bad news.
Currently, I’m in Windhoek, where people are occupying land illegally without permission from the appropriate authorities, particularly in places such as Havana and Ombili, to mention a few.
I’m honestly against what the Ondangwa Town Council did to those residents by ordering Shilimela Security Company to remove their shacks, some without even a simple warning.  What do those evicted people feel?  Where will they find alternative land to construct their meagre homes? Does anyone care?
The Ondangwa Town Council spokesperson defended the move by saying the three shacks were removed in order to construct a way for the provision of various services needed by the entire community.  Some were told to leave, but simply ignored the warnings. 
This might be true, but did the council first try to communicate with the relevant ministry in an effort to find alternative land for those affected?  Did they look at the land currently available and unallocated to provide at least a temporary area where these people could be relocated?
One of the residents affected by the demolition has three children who all go to school in that area.  What will happen to them?  How can they perform well in school with such stress, pressure and fear of not having a place to live?
We are all human beings and live at different levels, some are well off, some are not; but this doesn’t mean that we all don’t need a place to live, respect for our property and basic decency when we are in need.
Namibians, let’s try to understand and value other people’s struggles. Today it is them, tomorrow it could be you or a member of your family.  So many people are struggling to put bread on the table for their families.  Why evict them from their small homes and make things worse?
If those evicted were well off, they wouldn’t have occupied that land illegally in the first place.  Was that even considered when the demolitions took place?
The reason people in various towns are occupying the land illegally is because they cannot afford to purchase land or because councils have not made enough land available. 
Before destroying someone’s hard-earned property and belongings, those in charge  should think about the life of that person affected by their decision; they should think of the amount of funds involved in the construction of such ‘homes’, even if the legality of their location is in dispute.  They must think about all of this BEFORE they act.
If I were the chairperson of the Ondangwa Town Council, I would have done more to find alternative land where those residents could be relocated.
Most importantly, I would have sat down with those concerned, told them the law, alerted them to the council’s plans for that area, listened to their worries and then asked churches, businesses and local government to help find a solution. I would have done this BEFORE taking any destructive action. 
I am not saying that people should build whatever they want, wherever they want.  No country can operate fairly like that, but I am saying that we need to work together for a solution that provides land, even if it is temporary, to those with the most urgent needs, before we demolish their self-built homes.  Stop, talk, think, then act.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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