Endombo eviction averted
…Tsumeb residents protest against dumping tenants on streets

Obrein Simasiku

Early this morning hundreds of eviction threatened residents of Tsumeb’s Endombo compound including sympathisers burned tyres as they blocked roads leading to the premises.

This was in anticipation to stop the messenger of court to effect the evictions, however little did they know the process has been averted through an 11th hour engagement between politicians, central government and the property owner, Christo Groenewald.

Aggrieved residents whom the Windhoek Observer spoke to indicated that “what happened today is just a beginning and a sign of what we are capable of doing if pushed further or if this eviction issue is implemented. We stand by our grounds and in solidarity of everyone who is to be turned homeless. Our demands have been give us land.”

Endombo has been a hot potato for close to seven years with accusations and counter attacks flying between the tenants and the owner. The tenants stopped paying their rent in 2017, as they argued that Groenewald was not the legitimate owner. While on the other hand, Groenewald has been fighting tooth and nail to have them evicted, as they have been a pain in the neck for long.

Endombo compound has a historical mining and political background, having been owned by Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL), which was used 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 2000 tenants.

Since 2017 residents refused to pay rent as they adamantly refuse to acknowledge the changed ownership status despite a high court ruling in October, 2020, after the landlord sought relief following numerous eviction orders have been instituted and defied. The political intervention that always comes in at the last minute to avoid many being thrown onto the street have been another powerful derailment to the eviction plans. More than six evictions excluding the latest one have been brought forward, but none was effected.

Meanwhile, Tsumeb constituency councillor Gottlieb Ndjendjela, told this publication that the eviction once again has been put on hold indefinitely, thereby averting a catastrophe. “The leadership met last week and discussed this matter, and have in principle agreed to put it on hold as we fight for an amicable solution. That is why no police were deployed to the scene even as the residents burned tyres,” said Ndjendjela, while appealing for calm.

He further advised residents not to be used by opportunists to incite them into violent actions.

No solution

Each time the eviction is abandoned, there is always a solution. However this never works-out, until such a time Groenewald loses the temper again as he feels duped and useless, as people continue to benefit while he counts loses of millions in unpaid rent. It is only then everyone wakes up from their slumber and wants to act as if they are busy. Among the failed solutions was the idea for the government to purchase the property which was priced at N$21.3 million, an offer that cabinet refused to entertain. The initial estimated cost of the property was N$60 million. That figure came down to N$39 million during negotiations that started in December 2020. It further went down to N$30.4 million, before dropping to the last rejected price. Reports indicate that as of last year, Groenewald claimed that outstanding rent is in excess of N$6.5 million.

Another option which still hangs in the balance is the provision of plots to the Endombo tenants, to which the then mayor promised Erf 400, but later only 47 could be availed to the Endombo people at a reduced cost but remains undeveloped. “Providing land is a process it is not like going to the garage and buy a car. Procedures, servicing and approvals needs to be done before rushing to award plots,” responded Ndjendjela.

A distraught Groenewald said he has had enough of the dramas involving his property which he has been barred to enter, or come close to for the past five years, and now just wants the issue to come to an end. “Government wanted to buy the property but later declined, and then later decided i let them [tenants] stay while they are sorting plots, but since the whole of last year nothing happened. They were supposed to be gone by December, but nothing happened.’

“In January I inquired but they [politicians] pleaded for more time, until April, still no solution, that is why I decided to obtain a court order because I am tired, of losing income for many years at the expense of others. I guess the time has come to draw the line,” said Groenwald, as he awaits to hear a response from the leadership by today or tomorrow.

“They thought to go to the head of state for intervention because cabinet rejected to buy the property. I have not heard anything yet. Now the Municipality is asking if it can lease the property in order to buy time, of which i will not oppose because I need to make a living, I have lost too much,” he added, saying such a decision to lease the property still need approval from the line minister.

Town mayor Mathew Hangula did not answer calls made to his mobile.

By Observer