CoW land pre-allocation system progressive

A recent council resolution to pre-allocate 5 000 Windhoek plots over the next three years as part of their agenda to expedite land delivery appears a noble move considering in the last decade, very little has been achieved to rescue city dwellers from the jaws of landlessness.

For years now , we have watched as the City of Windhoek (CoW) waiting list ballooned to over 30 000 casting doubt on whether this list, which has also been acknowledged by officials to be vulnerable, will ever see some of its names turn into plot owners.

We thus welcome the systematic, yet complex, method adopted by the city of pre-allocating which is an initial allocation of land based on the proposed layout plan that will bring some sense of both direction and movement towards giving a chance to marginalised groups of society who are unable to compete in the formal housing market, an opportunity to own land.

This week, City Mayor Job Amupanda announced that in addition to the pre-allocation, all leases in informal settlements that have undergone an upgrading intervention will be kept up-to-date and the remaining statutory town planning process finalised to pave way for lease with an option to buy or a sales agreement. He further announced that council also recommended that the waiting list be validated (cleaned up) and digitalised, whereafter it will be submitted to the management committee for consideration adding that once approved, the list will then be made available on the City of Windhoek website for public access.

This level of transparency does not only restore confidence in the system but also creates room for greater participation from the private sector which remains a key player in the city’s short and long term goals of delivering land to its residents.

We have in the past reported how toxic politicking within the city has always been at the expense of service delivery and more specifically the servicing of land in the informal settlements. For this reason, we urge the current coalition to always put the interests of the city ahead of political affiliation.

There is no denying that Windhoek’s informal settlements have grown exponentially over the past few decades. In 2004, informal settlers constituted about 29 percent of Windhoek’s population of over 250 000. By 2011, the population had increased to 325 858. The proportion of informal settlements in general continued to increase. By 2018, an estimated 40 percent of Namibia’s 2.4 million population was living in shacks. This increase has been driven by people migrating from the country’s rural areas to the city in search of better lives.

While we stand in the full glare of this reality, more concerted and collective efforts are needed to fully address the housing challenge that in 2015 almost put the city at crossroads and continues to pose a stability threat.

We must also never forget that access to basic services is part of the goal. At the rate Windhoek is going, it seems unlikely this goal will be met by the 2030 deadline. However, it should be in the purview of the city fathers that a lot of innovation is needed to change this in order to put Namibia’s urban poor on a more prosperous, secure and dignified path.