Poverty eradication through land reform in Windhoek

Poverty eradication through land reform in Windhoek

Access to land remains an emotive issue, even in an urban set-up. Windhoek is the political seat and as a result attracts an influx of people seeking employment opportunities in the capital. It is common cause that the incoming people put a burden on land as they at most occupy land in the informal settlement areas. Planning and servicing land becomes cumbersome as result of the influx of our people to the capital.

Article 102 of the Namibian Constitution states that local government shall have a council as the principal governing body, freely elected in accordance with the Constitution with an executive and administration, which shall carry out all lawful resolutions and policies of such council. Regional and local authorities are seen as the secondary and third levels of government, with an executive and an administration. The City of Windhoek is a creature of statute and operates within the confines of the Local Authorities Act 23 of 1882. Being a Part 1 municipality, the City of Windhoek is less subject to direct control from Central Government under the Local Authorities Act 23 of 1992. As a result, the city has embarked on reforms within the framework of the law to ensure that our residents from all income brackets are catered for in terms of land ownership. The council has policies to allow gradual upgrading of land in informal settlements (referred to as in-situ upgrading or brownfield). Upgrading of informal settlements in Windhoek is guided by the Development and Upgrading Strategy (DUS). The objectives of the Development and Upgrading Strategy are to strive towards providing all lower income target groups of the city with a range of land development options in accordance with their levels of affordability; to establish uniform service standards for each of the development options; to set parameters for orderly incremental upgrading.

The Development and Upgrading Strategy works perfectly with the Build-Together Programme – the combination of the two produced some of the most promising results in Windhoek’s informal settlements anchored on self-help and solidarity. It is, therefore, our collective view that the introduction of the Mass Housing, Mass Urban Land Servicing and the Harambee Prosperity Plan is a blessing for the City of Windhoek which will usher in a new era of empowerment for the urban poor through security of tenure.

The City of Windhoek’s support for the urban poor is perhaps one of the most exemplary in the country. Groups are allowed to purchase land through the Windhoek Housing Scheme through their savings schemes. The council will then provide loans and allow the group schemes to construct their properties through the Windhoek Housing Scheme.

Currently the council allows land seekers to purchase land through private treaty, public auctions and through the tendering process as permitted by the Act. The council has however passed policies to ensure that land is accessible to nearly everybody within all sectors of our economy. Land in the ultra-low income areas is only sold by way of private treaty and residents register at the City of Windhoek and land is allocated as per the allocation list on a first come, first served basis. The council sells land through offer to purchase that is mainly aimed at accepting offers that are within the accepted median to keep the erf prices lower and hence making land affordable to its residents.

In passing, it is important to mention here that the notion that auctions are bad is not really true. The council needs to cater for investors in order to generate income that is expended in the provision of services to the majority of our people, as government does not subsidise the council in the provision of these services at all.

Policies have also being passed by the council with the aim of prohibiting auctions in ultra-low to low-income areas, but investors surely create employment and boost the financial position of the council. The council should as matter of fact also sell land to high-income earners in order to strengthen its own financial position as well as create a platform for cross-subsidisation.

In an attempt to meet the increasing demand of land delivery, the council has passed a policy on Public Private Partnership in order to expedite mass land delivery. The first pilot project has been successfully implemented (now in its final stage) in Otjomuise Extension 4 and Academia Extension 1. The pilot project is set to release over 500 erven alienated through public auctions and the offer to purchase method. There is no doubt that addressing the shortage of affordable land is high on the council’s agenda and as result the council is in the process of rolling out eight Public Private Partnerships that will deliver a total number of 3 800 erven in the next five years.

We as a council have recently reintroduced instalment sales as method of payment for land purchased from the council; this will undoubtedly make land affordable to our residents.

The council for the Municipality of Windhoek is cognisant of its challenges in delivering affordable land to its residents and have embarked upon these reforms to embrace the spirit of Harambee and will ensure that no Namibian will be left out.

Namibia is urbanising, more people are moving to urban areas in search of opportunities. In 1991, a year after independence, Namibia recorded 1.4 million people. The figure increased to 1.8 million in 2001 and reached 2.1 million people in 2011. The overall growth rate dropped from 2.6% per annum in 2001 to 1.4 per annum in 2011.

While the overall population growth took a dive, the urban population increased its share from 33% in 2001 to 42.8% in 2011. Out of Namibia’s total population of 2.1 million people in 2011, a total of 902,716 lived in urban areas. From the given total, 325,858 people lived in Windhoek representing 36% of the total urban population. For a period of ten years from 2001 to 2011 Windhoek grew an average of 3.3% per annum. Informal settlements in Windhoek grew at 6.1% per annum.

While moving forward as a nation, we are cautious about urban poverty.

Therefore, eradication of poverty is a must to ensure sustainable human settlements – and land reform is a good starting point.

As part of the issues of national priority in the current foreign policy, it is reasoned that the link between poverty reduction (ultimately eradication as per Harambee Prosperity Plan) and land reform be strengthened. In both areas, active diplomacy should be pursued not only to explain Namibia’s policy position, but to actively seek good practices where Namibia can learn from, and exchange knowledge.

The City of Windhoek, therefore, takes cognizance of the fact that in today’s globalization world, nations, cities, towns and villages can hardly afford to exist, operate and provide services in isolation. This does not only mean free capital mobility, efficient information and experience sharing, but also sharing of common opportunities and challenges together.

The city council adopted an International Relations Policy that is being conducted within the general framework of Namibia’s Foreign Policy. Through this policy the City of Windhoek has forged relationships with other cities, in the region and beyond.

Recognizing the current acute shortage in housing, the City of Windhoek over the past few months has been engaging sister cities on land delivery and housing, focusing on social and affordable housing for the low and middle income categories. Through international links, the council is exploring best practices and methods by the other cities, such as pre-allocation of land and housing delivery initiatives based on win-win Public Private Partnership arrangements.

It is my view that there are various factors or aspects that can be used to alleviate poverty – and land reform, amongst others, can go a long way in performing that function. Since the Land Conference of 1991, the impact felt among the poor in Namibia has not changed significantly. On the other hand, the challenges to alleviate poverty become more challenging and demanding as time lapses. Aspects such as the drought, lack of water (both for drinking and watering purposes), lack of agricultural training, and the continuing escalation of prices of goods and services are but some of those worth mentioning. It is my concerted view that land reform in its current form cannot contribute significantly to the eradication of poverty.

This migration is unsustainable in the long run because the impact on urban areas is immense. In other words, such a migration to the urban areas provides virtually the same challenges to those in leadership and management. I know that research done on the issue of poverty and reports amplify the state thereof. I also know that there are possible solutions proposed on how to eradicate poverty through land reform. However, I move that another land conference be held to take stock of what happened with the first land reform program, assess the drawbacks and lessons learned; and thereafter craft a new land reform program with a specific emphasis on poverty eradication.

• Muese Kazapua is the Mayor of the City of Windhoek and the Chairperson of the Council. This is an edited excrept from his paper titled: ‘The Role of Land Reform in the Eradication of Poverty in Namibia: Case of Windhoek’, which he presented at the five-day conference on the review of Namibia’s Foreign Policy in Windhoek, which ended yesterday, 29 July.

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