Double-ownership of houses at Arandis a headache

By Jade McClune

ARANDIS Town Council may have a heavy legal dispute and potentially costly legal claims on its hands over disputed ownership of a number of houses at the town, which had been resold or leased out after the previous owners could not be traced.

The case of Anna Awases, who provided Confidente with a copy of the deed of sale in terms of which she bought the house from the municipality is not an isolated case, says Angelika !Gases, a member of the Arandis Concerned Group.

Awases recently received notice from the municipality to vacate the house she says she bought, as the previous owner intends to take possession of the property. It is understood that around 38 households are affected by the problem and that the Office of the Ombudsman has taken up the issue with regard to three pertinent cases, which !Gases described as “serious”.

Awases last week said she was informed by letter that the house would be reclaimed by the previous owner and that she had to leave the premises in June. She says she bought the house from Arandis Town Council through the Build Together scheme after the owners had gone missing for many years.

Two weeks ago, a bank valuator arrived at their house on Erf 337, Franklin Street, to take photos and assess the value of the four-roomed property. She says she rightfully bought the house in January 2012 and has a title deed to prove it.

A spokesperson at Arandis Municipality said regarding the allocation of House Number 168, Erf Number 337, to Awases, that “Following the retrenchments at Rossing Uranium Mine during 2002 most of the employees residing in the Town of Arandis were impacted.

“This resulted in an exodus of people out of Arandis, leaving their properties, bonded in favour of the Arandis Town Council unattended and vandalized. The debtor’s book of the Council has increased significantly because of the owners not paying their loans.

“The structure would have deteriorated to a point where the house would not have been livable, should the opportunity not been given to Ms. Anna Awases, who needed accommodation at the time.

“Council exercised its rights in terms of the mortgage bond to lease the properties to interested persons. Council’s interpretation of the section dealing with “Calling in the Bond” as stipulated in the mortgage bond let the Council to sell the house to Ms. Awaseb, which proved impossible since the house was already sold to Mr. Uwiteb.

“On 19 February 2018, Arandis Town Council notified all mortgagors with abandoned properties in Arandis to settle their loans in full before 31 March 2018. This was deliberately done as per council resolution to ensure a response, as they were unresponsive for years. Mr. Uwiteb [the previous owner of the house in question] indeed responded and claimed the house.”

Confidente spoke to the son of Barnabas Oxurub, who said he is the son of the original owner, who had bought the house from Rossing, where he previously worked. When they were contacted by council they sought to reclaim the house, but were told that the deed of sale could not be found. They traced a copy in Windhoek but were told they would have to pay around N$65,000 in municipal arrears to take possession.

Anna Awases meanwhile was shocked to hear from officials that she would just have to move out and put up a shack on a vacant plot. Oxurub in turn said he harboured no ill feeling towards Awases, because the fault was not on her side, but it appears that council had sold houses that were already in private owners.

The council spokesperson said the process of returning the houses to council commenced in 2009 and had been a long and costly process. “Most of the persons who have participated in purchasing their houses through an Alienation Scheme introduced in 1996 abandoned their properties without notice to the Council, resulting in vandalism and excessive debts on the books of the local authority.

“Since 2000, the Council has struggled through various legal firms to get hold of the defaulted customers, with no resolve, except for additional fees that the council had to pay. The council commenced a process to negotiate with the owners of these properties, as well as with the current occupants in order to reach amicable settlements.”