“Where will we go now, this is the only place our children knew and could call home,” these were the words of some tenants evicted from Tsumeb’s Endombo compound, as hundreds of people including women and children were left homeless today as they languished in the scorching sun, with no food or water, as the messenger of court or sheriff, continued to dump their properties outside.
The evictees are from 40 households. The landlord Christo Groenewald said, justice is being served after years of being barred from accessing his property as well as the millions he lost in revenue.
“The eviction is ongoing, however some are running to me to make arrangements in fear. However, I am yet to decide what is to happen, because this will be handled day-by-day and each day carries a different surprise. I still remain open to those willing to cooperate. I lost huge income, hence I will still summon them to court so that I recoup what I lost. I can’t do it now all at once because it’s a costly legal exercise,” he said.
There was a heavy police presence to maintain law and order. Police are also camped at the property, amid threats from tenants who had vowed to burn the premises, as they remained steadfast in resisting the eviction. Tyres were burnt outside the premises mid-July when an eviction order was to be executed, and saw three people being arrested. They were later granted bail of N$1000 each.
The eviction processes dates back to 2017 when tenants revolted and refused to pay rent, as they complained of increasing rental fees while the place deteriorated into a state of disrepair. Dispute over legal ownership of the property was another reason that led to the stand-off. The matter then continued to the High Court in 2020, where the landlord Christo Groenewald was declared as the rightful owner, and the issuing of an eviction order in his favour.
Every time the order was to be executed it was shelved at the eleventh due to the intervention from politicians and central government. However, this time around, there was no such intervention.
“We don’t know where to go now, we have been here in the sun without food and water. Our kids are in shock and traumatised as they are being welcomed in the streets, something they have never experienced in their life before. At this point we have no choice, we have tried to resolve the matter, but it is unfortunate it has boiled down to this point,” said one resident identified as Wilhelm.
Another tenant, only known as Anna, said her life and that of her husband including their four children have turned upside down, and are thus appealing for government to come to their aide. Anna and her family have lived in the compound for 15 years. “I am unemployed and my husband is a security guard earning N$1500, which is not even enough for renting elsewhere. We really do not know what to do, someone must help us.”
Other victims said, some of their properties were damaged in the process, while some goods remained in the premises. “We are not allowed to come near the place, yet some of our things are still inside, the police are strict.”
No altercation or violent clashes were reported during today’s eviction.
Tsumeb deputy mayor Anmire Garises, said the municipality had given 43 plots to Endombo tenants, and in the wake of this, it was time the go to their erven and settle. This is however contrary to claims that only 11 were awarded. “It is not true, 43 plots were given, so they should proceed to settle there. In the meantime, the regional councillor Gottlieb Ndjendjela is organising tents to temporarily shelter them,” said Garises.
Deputy mayor Garises however refused to be drawn into a conversation relating to the municipality’s proposal of renting out the property while it seeks to provide a long term solution to the land issue. “I was not in that meeting. You should ask the mayor himself [Mathew Hangula] he should know better.”
The last attempt in July was averted after the municipality passed a proposal to rent the place, but requested for some time as it needed to seek permission from the line ministry. This proposal was rejected by Minister Erastus Utoni who said the ministry does not have money to entertain such a proposal, Windhoek Observer is reliably informed.
With the last offer being turned down, Groenewald said, “I actually accepted the proposal, but when it was turned down by the minister, I was left with no any other choice but to proceed, it being many years that I have been patient.”
Mayor Hangula was unavailable for comment by the time of going to print.
In 2020 leading to 2021, government was considering to buy the property, and it was valued at N$21 million at the time, but this was rejected by Cabinet, on grounds that there was no money, and Utoni was then directed to find other alternatives. That is where the provision of land came in, but still Municipality has also partially failed as its hands are tight due to unavailability of serviced land, and no reception area.
Groenewald said the property is now up for sale and a higher learning institution has shown interest. “I will have to go back to the client to find out if they are still interested, and if they are, definitely everyone will have to be out, it’s unfortunate,” he added, without delving into details of the envisaged sale agreement.
Endombo compound has a historical mining and political background, having been owned by Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL), which used it to house contract mineworkers. TCL was liquidated in 1998. All assets of TCL were taken over by Ongopolo Mining and Processing Limited Company. Groenewald took ownership of the property in 2002. Groenewald served as property manager of Ongopolo. The compound has more than 3000 tenants.