As we wait for the confirmed election results, there are consistent nightmare problems in Namibia that must not be eclipsed. The need for affordable and decent housing cannot wait. In Walvis Bay, a consortium of fishing companies began constructing accommodation for 300 of their employees. Over N$65 million is in the pot for costs. This is an example of what must happen all over the country. Government and business must push everything to the back of the line – housing must be the #1 focus in 2021.
This consortium of fishing companies gets a nod of approval for their housing investment. However, we have a raised eyebrow about why it took this long for them to act. Their employees have been living in disgraceful conditions for decades. Regardless of this newly-discovered corporate consciousness, it is the right thing to do.
There are very few large employers in the Namibian economy (relatively speaking). The economy is more ‘cottage’ than corporate. The government does not have the money to provide for the housing needs of its people. We must stop tap-dancing around this ugly truth. The amount of low-cost housing provided by the government via the NHE is embarrassing. It is far below the needs of the masses of the people.
During the white supremacist apartheid and colonial era, matchbox houses were provided. These ethnicity/race-based townships remain full of hovels that the (then) government deemed were good enough for our people.
After independence, the government meant well but did not do enough. They did not institutionally and systemically address the housing crisis. There was a surge in people flocking to cities in search of ‘something better.’ The surge of previously disadvantaged citizens overwhelmed the social services systems of cities meant for the tiny numbers of whites only.
Technical staff ensconced in their office cubicles who remained from the previous dispensation were not (and still are not) inclined to assist the majority rule government in managing these situations.
The problem multiplied in plain sight, but budgetary detours were taken as priorities shifted. Tens of thousands languished in dilapidated, disgraceful housing conditions. There was no anticipation of this mass influx. An insufficient budget was set aside for the annual construction of enough houses.
The decades rolled by, lovely promises were made, but only a trickle of houses was constructed to match the flood of demand. Prices for everything went up as the years rolled by. Poverty increased and the numbers of people needing affordable housing skyrocketed. We could not, or would not, keep up. There were competing social services demands, but the increase in corruption at the large and small levels leaked money that should have been applied to housing.
And now, with the pandemic, here we are – in a worse condition than ever.
Private sector companies can find the money in these times of decreasing business revenues, to address the housing problem.
All large businesses in Namibia must consider forming a coalition within their sectors to address the housing needs of their employees. The schemes can be varied based on the reality for their workers.
There is no doubt that 2020 must rank as one of the worse years in most people’s financial lives. This is true for Namibia and around the world. Different solutions must be offered. Business to the rescue!
Mass unemployment causes an economic meltdown. Economic meltdown leads to political unrest. No one makes a profit in political unrest. If human decency and love of country can not move corporate investment in housing, then let the justification be the long-term viability of the company beyond annus horribilis 2020. Any business that wishes to thrive NEEDS a stable Namibia. Providing housing for employees is a leap in the right direction.
Make 2021 the year of decent housing for Namibians. The private sector can lead the way.