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There is no land problem in Namibia

By Peter Ya Peter
There is no land problem in Namibia or in Windhoek. What is happening at the moment is a lack of political will to solve the land problem.

Anyone who wants land can get it very cheaply if the City Council wants to make the land available. It is not even true that there is no money to service the land, money is available. The city managers should explain to the residents why land is scarce in Windhoek.

Many years ago when NHE organised a National Stakeholders Conference on Housing, I was invited to participate. Participants started to debate about the lack of funds to provide houses countrywide. They talked of borrowing money abroad. I stood up and told them that there is no need for Namibia to borrow money abroad for development while GIPF sat with billions of dollars. I informed them further that at that time GIPF was required by law to invest 65% of its assets abroad and only 35% locally.

I told them this and left the conference. Many of them doubted my revelation; and when the GIPF representative came to address them they wanted to know whether what I told the conference was true. When they were told that this was indeed true they were dumbfounded. I was later told that some people were not happy that I revealed this big state secret, I laughed. GIPF has since this revelation resolved to fund housing, but how many houses have been built so far?

The problem is that those of us who have the vision to solve the housing backlog in the country are deliberately excluded from the process. Until competent people are put in charge of the delivery of housing, we should expect ominous consequences bigger than young Shipululo 'ploughing' in Kleinne Kuppe. I must say that I have not yet found fault with the current Housing Minister. He is still new and I am ready to advise him on this issue if and when he may need this advice. I challenge anyone who is lying to the nation that the delivery of land to the people is a problem, it is not. A few years ago I approached the City of Windhoek with a proposal to service and develop what is today known as Academia Extension One, which was auctioned a few weeks ago.

At that time the City through its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) told me that they could not allow me to develop the land because it was not serviced and they did not have money to service the land. I told the CEO that I can find money to service it. He told me that the policy at that time was that the City was the only one allowed to service the land. I replied again by saying that all that was required to change that policy was a City Council resolution. He then went back to the City Council and a resolution was passed to allow public private partnership which I suggested earlier to him. I was later invited in October 2010 to make a presentation to the City Council through our close corporation SUNNY PROPERTY INVESTMENT CC for the portion of land, Academia extension one I applied for or any other available land. Apparently my proposal was not good enough it was not accepted. The land was given to the group which has now serviced it. I tried to get another piece of land to service and I am still waiting four years since I applied. The money which my investors wanted to use for that purpose is still available.

The problem, therefore, is that those who are managing the City do not want the land problem to be solved. I challenge anyone who cares to listen that through the formula of public private partnership which I already shared with the City of Windhoek, I, personally, can solve the problem of land delivery in Windhoek and the rest of the country within a period of 18 to 24 months; this is very practicable. If you give me this task to perform then comrade Job Ampanda's problem will be solved overnight. I am ready to start as soon as the City of Windhoek is ready to solve this problem once and for all. I can guarantee you a solution and I challenge you to prove me wrong.

If you do not want to take up my challenge to solve this problem then stop telling people who want land that you want to give them land but you cannot. Just tell them that you do notwanttogivethemland. Who is fooling who?

The challenge is very straight forward. Give me the land which you want to develop for the people as much of it as you have and my partners and I can guarantee you that we will service it in the shortest possible time wherever in the country you need. That we can deliver. Comrade Job Ampanda, if the City of Windhoek gives me land to service I will give you a plot free of charge for exposing this duplicity.

The City of Windhoek is simply not serious with land delivery. They give land to businesses of their choice whom they want to give, but those whom they give land develop it so slowly that it makes no difference at all. Land needs to be delivered faster than that. People are living in haphazard shacks that are burning every now and then.

After I failed to get land from the City Council and after learning that the son of the former Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development has contacted my Chinese business partners to do the same business I was doing with them, I decided to discuss the issue with the Minister. The Minister lectured me for almost an hour that he has absolutely no influence or control over the City Council. I listened and later thanked him for his time and left his office without revealing to him that I find it highly suspicious that after I introduced my Chinese partners to the City of Windhoek his son got interested in doing business with them.

My Chinese partners then told me that they still want to work with me on City Council deals but with regard to NHE deals, they prefer to work with the Minister's son. They also told me some things which I can only reveal to the SWAPO top four. I showed them the written mandate I have from NHE to bring them investors but they said that it was too late they have already committed themselves to working with the minister's son on NHE deals. I was very disappointed. Here I was working very hard on an NHE mandate to bring investors and after I found them they suspiciously form a joint venture with a minister's son excluding my other partners and I. I watched helplessly as they were allocated tenders in the mass housing programme. I wanted to let sleeping dogs lie but when I see people crying for land every day and I know that I can help them; I decided to come out and tell it like it is.

When the former minister of housing confidently told me that he has no control or influence over the running of the city, I left wondering what else he thought and believed that he was not in control of; no wonder the city of Windhoek councillors do as they wish. I wonder what he thinks he was appointed to do if not to solve the housing problem. This reminded me of one comrade whose honesty I admire even today. She was designated to become High Commissioner to a neighbouring country; when she was asked by a journalist what she was going to do in that country, she replied without any scruples that she did not know; and the appointment went to someone else. For me this is more patriotic than accepting a job which oversees the functioning of local authorities and municipalities and yet you do not know whether you have control and influence over their decisions. Maybe this was just meant to stop me from asking too many questions.

If one considers the period of time which passed between our application to service land for the City of Windhoek which is October 2010 and today 2014; how much land could we have delivered for the people of Windhoek? How many permanent and temporary jobs could we have created: How much poverty could we have alleviated? We are the answer to many problems facing the country today, yet those who control city land do not want to work with us. They prefer to work with people who take four years to service a small piece of land. We could have made a serious reduction to poverty, unemployment and homelessness. Instead of working with us they prefer to work with their relatives and friends including their children, who obviously do not share the vision we have.

Their vision starts and ends with eradicating poverty from their own homes and from their own families while watching the rest of us languish in poverty, homelessness, unemployment and hunger. They banquet and shun us while laughing at our apparent lack of influential connections which can make us rich. Even children are made to look better than adults just because their parents can unfairly and unjustly open a door which leads to riches for them while blocking people who can make a meaningful and lasting contribution to poverty reduction.

This should not be the case. This shows or demonstrates that the top leadership may be well meaning when they resolve to end poverty and hunger but they are usually let down by the people they delegate the implementation of their policies and programmes to. In this particular case I have no doubt that when the top leadership of SWAPO resolved to end hunger and poverty in the country including Windhoek, they meant well but obviously this vision was not shared by the City of Windhoek.

This reminds me of a horrible and tragic story which happened in the City of Lusaka in neighbouring Zambia in the 1970's. President Kaunda, a well meaning humanist, and his Cabinet, resolved to end poverty and squalor in the Lusaka suburb of Kanyama. A huge sum of money was budgeted and voted for what was then called the modernisation of Kanyama. The city council of Lusaka and various government departments were given five years to modernise Kanyama. At the end of five years and after having received numerous good reports of progress on the Kanyama project, President Kaunda was getting ready to inaugurate a modern Kanyama.

He was shocked to learn that all the funds budgeted and voted for the modernisation of Kanyama were spent and depleted but there was no single sewer, no tarred road, no amenity in Kanyama. Meanwhile, some of those who were responsible for the implementation of the Kanyama project have retired early from government and the City of Lusaka and gone into private business with state funds. Some even found Africa not suitable for their new standard of living and relocated overseas.

In our own case, the public has been bombarded with propaganda on how the City of Windhoek has embarked on this new initiative of public private partnership. In the end what do we have: only Academia Extension One and young Job ShipululoAmpanda 'ploughing' in Kleinne Kuppe. For those of you who understand Oshiwambo, smile and chuckle at the intended pun. Shipululo means plough in Oshiwambo. I admire and appreciate Job Ampanda's intellectual resourcefulness and I sincerely hope that we will not be deprived of his much needed contribution to our public discourse just because the city has no vision of how to deliver serviced land to the people.

Meanwhile, I challenge you all to give me 24 months to sort the mess out with private equity. I am prepared to face the City Council and the CEO of the City of Windhoek in front of the top four of SWAPO to hear how they explain the slow pace at which they deliver the land. Those of us who applied to service the land for the City of Windhoek know why land is not being made available. Give the land to us to service it and you will see the difference. The irony of this is that this is not even a tender we are applying for. We are offering a needed service to the nation. There is so much land in the City of Windhoek waiting to be serviced and made available to the people of the city, but the only impediment is the city leadership.

All I need from the City of Windhoek is a letter authorising my business partners and I to service all the land around Windhoek which is zoned for services and I can guarantee you that 18 - 24 months from the date it is given to us we will deliver thousands of serviced plots for all purposes. To all of you residents of Windhoek I want you to know that there is a lot of money looking for very specific work to service land in Windhoek but the city's leadership is refusing to accept this money. They have accepted a few dollars from Old Mutual which serviced only Academia extension one. We (I) challenge you to put pressure on the City Council which you voted into city hall to accept our offer to service the land for you and leave the rest to us. We will not disappoint you.

As for you comrade President and your senior colleagues, we are ready to explain to you what we are talking about. Land delivery in the city is not a problem. It has nothing to do with willing seller willing buyer. It only needs a willing investor and a willing City Council. This council is not willing. The government should consider removing the department of housing from the MRLGHRD and either establish a new Ministry or an agency under the Office of the President (OP) focussing on housing, poverty alleviation and employment creation headed by a Director General.

When housing is given specific focus at Presidential level it will most likely be solved, because I believe that Presidents unlike ministers are very serious about it. When it is outside state house ministers tend to focus on other departments and neglect housing which is a basic human need and right.

Long Live Namibia and its Brave People!





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