Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

The issue is not about with how much surgical precision anyone, let alone the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF), would wish to make us believe what and how much it is doing to help the government arrest the 300,000 housing backlog and/or shortage the country is experiencing.

But that 300,000 housing units, by the government’s own assessment, are needed, and what can be done about this backlog by all and sundry, including the GIPF. Because acute shelter-less, homeless and roofless, is the norm in the housing sector in Namibia. Addressing this acute shortage is and cannot be the responsibility of the government alone. As much as the commitment and political, and foremost the financial wherewithal of the government, first and foremost should pave the way for all and sundry to bring their due in this regard. Given the financial wherewithal of the GIPF, perceived or real, it is not and cannot be accidental that it is singled out in this regard. Not so much that its beneficiaries to necessarily draw on their pensions for housing now, but as part of the coterie of both financial institutions and social welfare entities, including local authorities, to collectively look at this acute housing shortage in the country. Most importantly at how sooner than later, governmental and non-governmental, financial and non-financial entities can, severally and collectively, start to address this pressing social issue in all earnest.

Granted the usual line of business of the GIPF, pensions, nevertheless in the desperate search for a solution with hitherto little prospects arresting it firstly, and then reversing it, it is no malice for anyone to float and sell the idea of the GIPF being part of the search for a solution. Especially for the sake of civil servants at the lower end of the social ladder, GIPF’s clients, and effectively its shareholders, unable to afford loans from financial institutions. Their inability to afford must be well known to especially policymakers, and the financial institutions as well, including the GIPF. And that such loans is a pipedream to them because of unaffordability. Unless policymakers and financial advisors in Namibia are living in political and financial Disneyland.

One would expect that it must have been out of this very realisation that the GIPF has established the First Capital Housing Fund. Only to learn that in fact First Capital is charging more than the traditional financial institutions, which is 16% interest on loans. Which cannot but call into question the essence of the facility. How then can those perceiving the GIPF as providing for the elite amidst the suffering of its primary shareholders and would-be beneficiaries be wronged? Admittedly, by the GIPF itself, shareholders, and thus civil servants, can take out loans through this facility for housing. But can, especially those at the lower end of the civil service, realistically do so? And at what cost given the higher interests First Capital is charging? Thus the helpfulness of this fund, cannot but be suspect. Thus the bombastic response of the GIPF communication machinery with senseless and self-serving and self placating pages of editorial to what seem a genuine concern is nothing but impulsively and my
opically defensive.

It cannot but be instructive and informative to know how much of a departure from the normal loan facilities of the commercial financial institutions is the First Capital facility? It is a well-known fact that most of the housing loan facilities by commercial financial institutions, are part of the capitalist system, with their main motivation and goal being profit. Social housing, 30 years plus after Namibian independence, is an anathema to the Namibian housing supply sector. In fact, except for the aborted mass housing project, aborted without any commendable results, with some of the units built in this respect unoccupied and white elephants, social housing is non-existent in Namibia. Meaning that the sector continues to be purely profit-oriented, exploitative and thus capitalist in nature.

It is thus unfortunate that the idea of the prime mover as far as the application of GIPF funds to housing projects for low income civil servants have been taken in its literal sense and responded to with a trigger happy attitude by the communication machinery of GIPF.

The intention of the prime mover must have been honestly, nobly and honourably, to earnestly address the acute housing shortage in Namibia among the exploited, neglected and disadvantaged . Instead the response is one of public posturing. The annual housing growth rate in Namibia has officially been said to be 3,700 units per year. This is against a backlog as per last year of 300,000. Meaning this would take about 86 years for Namibia to arrest the backlog, all things being equal. Meaning few homeless people can dream of decent housing in their lifetime.