BoN targeting the goose intent on laying golden eggs in affordable housing

Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Property Group Save Namibia (PGSN) seems to be sending shock waves through the Namibian property market, especially the housing market.

To the extent that before they have properly taken off they have been inviting the undue attention of the country’s central bank. Surely the Bank of Namibia (BoN) cannot and should not be the one having a brief with PGSN, not given the PGSN noble goal, which is to help provide affordable houses if not decent shelters. Yes, the PGSN as yet may not provide for houses towards the lowest end of the housing market, meaning to those who at best would only be able to afford corrugated iron structures. Because it would be long before any institution, and a financial one for that matter whose interest is making profit, can ever be dreamed, hoped and even imagined of providing for the housing of the downtrodden as much as those currently in the so-called informal settlements can really all be said to be downtrodden.

Because some of them are capable of building for themselves decent shelters, which few if not all the going housing financial institutions could ever be dreamed of doing for them. Because they simply have not been established to help these class in society, not to mention the fact that help is a term which to these financial institutions is a rarity. Like any other financial institutions, most of the financial institutions, like their counterparts in many other sector of the economy, their essence is purely economic gain, and/or profit as you may have it, which in essence is no more than the exploitation of the masses of the people, or a section of the masses. Because given the nature of Capitalism, the mass of the masses are simply not capable of exploitation because they are simply too poor, an euphemism for exploitation. They are exploited to the bone at the workplace, in all sectors, that they are left with little for any other sector of the economy, like the housing financiers, to be of any use to such
avarice and greedy and unscrupulous money hunters if not launderers.

It is for this section of the exploited and wretched of the Namibian unequal and impoverished earth, that the PGSN is aiming to provide. A section, needless to say, that has for long been crying for emancipation on many fronts. Now that there is hope for emancipation for them in terms of shelter, red lights are being flagged prematurely and opportunistically against the would-be emancipator.

Yours Truly Ideologically cannot and would not fault BoN for being vigilant lest innocent Namibians, desperate for shelter are schemed. But the PGSN is and cannot be the first group on the housing provision front to be scheming Namibians very much craving for shelter. The Namibian housing provision sector is not and has not been the most transparent sector all along dating back to colonial times before independence. Its collaboration, if not connivance with financial institutions to exploit unsuspecting house buyers and owners is well recorded. As evidenced by mortgage owners having to pay off their mortgages for more than 21 years or so. One would take out a loan to buy a car worth N$400,000 or so paying back this loan within four or five years. Take out the same loan for a house then one has to finish paying it only after 21 years or so. With the borrower hold stage to the mortgage for a good 21 years during which the financial institutions siphon off interest money from the mortgage holder.

Such has been the connivance within the housing sector coupled with exorbitant prices for building materials thereby not only robbing would be homeowners desperate for housing of the hard-earned income, but also in the process depriving people of an opportunity to own houses due to the inhibitive prices of houses and rendering them homeless and condemning them to squatting.

Either for BoN this state of affairs, dating back to the colonial period, is normal and acceptable. Or if not, BoN for own reasons as a fellow traveler of Capitalism and one of its foremost protector, has chosen to let the sleeping dogs of Capitalism lie. Whether one would want to admit it or not, the Affirmative Reposition (AR) of which Dimbulukeni Dee Nauyoma has been a member, during the last regional and local government elections, had one of the most detailed manifesto and/or position on housing via its housing charter.

“NHE focusses on population earning more than N$5000 a month, which is less than 13% of the total population. The backlog in this category is minor (4000 houses) compared to the estimated backlog in the lower incomes (75,000 houses). In addition, banks are moving into this area as well, with consequently less need for the NHE to be active in this section. There is little on offer for the population with an income between N$3000-N$5000,” states the AR housing charter quoting a 2012 Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) study. Obviously this is the void the PGSN is trying to fill. As much as it cannot be the panacea for the acute housing shortage in the country for those at the lower end of the income scale, it can help alleviate the situation somehow,

Not only this but the AR and thus Dee’s PGSN’s understanding of the current mechanisations of Capitalism regarding the provision of housing, especially the role of financial institutions, is very clear. Thus being an activist of AR, there can be no better candidate, ideologically well-disposed as Dee may be, with a better understanding of the workings and mechanisms of the Capitalist housing market, to infiltrate it and break the vicious syndicate and housing cartel currently rendering many a Namibian houseless.

The emancipation of Namibian workers, to be honest, can hardly rarely be expected from the many Namibian businesses nor financial institutions. As much the housing emancipation, which many Namibians surely need, and which Dee and co has set out spearheading via the PGSN only to know earn the wrath of the BoN.

The BoN by turning on ventures like the PGSN surely must somehow getting out of touch of its existence as a central bank. Central to what? Obviously to the government of the day, which ordinarily if it had its ideology balanced and its priority right, should be providing housing. The housing backlog in the country is well known and neither this government in its lifetime, and even its successor, especially if it is inclined to the same ideological disposition as the current one, shall ever hope of first if only reducing the backlog, and eventually arresting it. Neither can the housing provision dominated by commercial banks as currently is, provide affordable low cost housing, which is housing for ordinary people. This is just not within the Capitalist DNA of the commercial banks and the housing provision and construction sector at large. PGSN is a paradigm shift from the Capitalist housing provision cartel. And it is strange this is what the BoN is out to protect by targeting the PGSN. For the BoN, it looks
like of bigger interest to them and thus needing their protection are the commercial banks, and their appendix in the housing provision sector, rather than the thousands of Namibians without a decent shelter.

What needs investigation, and something that must already have dawned on BoN and that it must have already done, is how commercial banks, and all the institutions in the housing provision sector linked to the commercial banks, year in and year out have been rendering and condemning thousands of Namibians shelterless and thousands others to homeless with impunity. Without BoN blinking an eye. If all of a sudden PGSN, which hardly exists is of such concern to BoN, surely the commercial banks which years on and years in been exploiting mortgage holders, must have already been regulated to emancipate mortgage holders and would-be mortgage holders and thus emancipate the housing provision market.

However and whatever, BoN and the housing cartel would like to make the nation believe regarding the housing market, surely it is and cannot be in the best interest of the shelter-less.

By Observer