“The lack of affordable land for housing is the main cause of Namibia’s housing crisis and the continuous rapid growth of informal settlements,” notes the Mayor of Windhoek when announcing the outcome of the land and housing workshop, which the City hosted end August beginning September.
“Crisis”, sounds like an understatement by the Mayor in describing what has been happening on the housing provision frontier since independence, which can aptly be described as a ticking bomb, not only for the City of Windhoek, but all over the country.
“Rapid growth” is also a misnomer because looking at what has come to be characterisd euphemistically and insensitively by officialdom, including the various local authorities as “informal settlements”, are in reality to the many wretched of the exploitative capitalist system in Namibia, that has over the 31 years of freedom and independence been entrenching itself, consciously by design of pro-Capitalist policies of our government, no less than homes.
Rather than a “rapid growth”, it is an explosion that since independence has shown little or no signs of receding, let alone slowing and/or showing eventually any signs of being arrested. The 1991 Housing and Population Census, the first after independence, revealed that the urban areas of the country were growing at a “very rapid rate” of 3.75% per year. If 30 years ago that was the case, and literally speaking little has been done if only to slow this growth, or let alone arrest it, if not ultimately reverse it, how it can still be characterised as “rapid growth” other than an explosion of epic proportions, is beyond any understanding of the workings of the policy processes in this sector entailing the identification of the problem, formulation of a responsive policy, the implementation thereof and its constant monitoring, and if needs be redirection if not redefinition of the problem with attendant new policy(ies).
This is not as if our government from the word go was and has not been aware of the pitiful housing situation at independence. Hence the 1999 National Plan of Action on housing. Only for the ARs of today to realise this untenable precarious housing and land dearth in all earnest, and do something about it like the Mayor of Windhoek’s initiative. With the first hurdle surely being his own fellow councilors, and the City’s management.
“For more than 25 years, a lack of funds, inappropriate modalities to mass housing and corruption, are the main reasons that people in informal settlements, do not have a dignified life today, and out of frustration, resort to land grabbing as a gesture for the voiceless,” the Mayor observes point blank. Granted! But is that the root of the housing scourge?Is the major not perhaps omitting the cardinal and root cause of the seeming housing crisis? And is the said housing crisis not only a symptom of a bigger problem?
Yours Truly Ideologically is under no illusion that the seeming housing crisis is not intrinsic to itself but symptomatic of a bigger and more serious terminal myelitis. Because simply it is not in the DNA of the capitalist system to provide houses rights left and centre, let alone a decent shelter. Hence the explosion of what are referred to as informal settlements all over the country. Because that is only Capitalism at its best while at its worse the evidence is there every day before our eyes but we seem blind to it. Poverty, squalor, hunger, destituteness, you name them.
But surely the latest initiative of the Mayor is commendable. But with hindsight it must be stated only as a valiant beginning, not to forget that he may be a loner in pushing what appear to be a radical initiative as it is not clear to what extent his fellow councilors may be amenable to his radical ideas. Because of political envy, and/or jealousy, intrigues and mechanisations, as you may have it. Marked by impulsive diarrhoeal senseless criticisims, not to mention ideological indisposition and/or impotence and hollowness.
But most crucial any such radical-ideological paradigm is circumscribe by entrenched Capitalism within the City of Windhoek and Namibia. The latter surely is a fact that the Mayor and fellows within the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) may not only be aware of, but very much conversant about the mechanisms of Capitalism, especially within the housing provision sector, more so the financing sector and its role and involvement, driven by blind profit motives, making the sector highly exploitative in terms of high prices of land, houses and rentals.
There’s no denying that Amupanda and company has a tall order, especially from an ideological perspective because it is not certain if he has any ideological fellow travelers on the Council and management to be able to radically transform the city, as he seems determined, starting with the housing provision sector. Be that as it may be, and few leftist –leaning friends he may have on the Council, it is gratifying to know for once in him, and the AR, the City has someone who is not coming from an ideological empty and non-committal No Man’s Land that the City and Namibia is.
“Windhoek is a capitalist City in which housing is not seen as shelter and an essential right for residents, but instead it is seen as a commodity. It is for this reason that in 2014, Namibia recorded the highest housing price growth in the world, second only to Dubai,” states the AR’s Future of Windhoek document in which the AR commit to radically transforming the City.
That realisation alone may be enough to drive Amupanda and can in the least gives one the satisfaction and assurance that his initiative may not be cast in ideological impotence, bankruptcy and opportunism.