Homeless police officer moves into empty government flat
Dire situation brought to the fore
20 August 2020 | Police
According to Tjijeura, she is recovering from a leg injury and brain tumour, and with her meagre earnings from the force, she is unable to provide accommodation for her family of seven - herself, three boys and three girls.
She says Covid-19 has worsened things for her family, as they have been forced to move from house to house with the hope of finding a place to call home.
After learning of an empty flat located behind Baines Centre, Tjijeura decided to seek refuge in what appeared to be an abandoned state facility. She cleaned the three-bedroom apartment on Monday before occupying it on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Tjijeura was approached by Selma Petrus, an employee of the works and transport ministry and her colleagues, asking her to vacate the space as it was allegedly allocated to Petrus in December 2019. According to the Petrus and her colleagues - who directly deal with the allocation of government houses - she could not occupy the building as she was waiting for renovations to take place.
The flat in question has been empty since January 2020, according to people living on the premises.
There are about 20 flats in total, most in a dilapidated state as could be seen from the outside.
Officials from the ministry confirmed that these specific flats were reserved for married government employees. Although Nampa could not independently verify this, it is however claimed that the majority of those living there are bachelors.
Petrus is currently an occupant of a one-bedroom government apartment elsewhere in Windhoek.
After Tjijeura refused to leave, the officials called in Ella Hilokwah, a director in that ministry and its spokesperson, Julius Ngwedha, who also chairs the housing allocation committee, to explain why she should vacate the premises.
Feeling hopeless, Tjijeura turned to Katutura Central Constituency councillor Ambrosius Kandjii for help, and Kandjii arrived at the scene around 16:00 Tuesday.
When Nampa arrived two hours later, Kandjii and the ministry officials were at each other’s throats.
The politician insisted that Tjijeura would not vacate unless a court order to that effect was presented. With the situation spiralling, Ngwedha told Kandjii he was going to call for police intervention, with officers arriving 30 minutes later.
In the back and forth arguments, Kandjii said the efforts by the works ministry to evict the police officer in question were tribally motivated. “We know of the corruption going on at the works ministry. It is one of the most corrupt in this country. It is only one tribe that is benefiting while we all liberated this country,” a fuming Kandjii told Ngwedha.
Dismissing him, Ngwedha said: “This illegal trespassing is something I will not bear. This illegal occupation of government flats is taking up our time which should be spent on concentrating on important things, which is to allocate flats formally to people.”
It has become a norm for government employees to occupy state-owned properties at will and without following procedures, the official lamented.
There are about 500 government-owned flats in Windhoek and a waiting list of about 2 000 applications, it was said.
Hilokwah, the director in the ministry, came in: “We blame all this on the situation on the ground because most people do not qualify [to buy houses].” She blamed the housing crisis on government but hastened to add that anarchy cannot be tolerated.
“Government has not done much to give accommodation to the whole nation. We understand that, but it does not give anybody any right to break in… they tell each other that it’s just [Aavambo people] benefiting, but if the Aavambo is the one who applied first, why do you have to go outside and scream ‘Hereros come and get flats’ when they are not on the list?” she said on the sidelines.
Hilokwah also took issue with Kandjii’s presence during the verbal brawl.
“I am a national leader, a member of parliament. My area of jurisdiction cannot be determined by anybody. As a leader in this country, I react at any time,” Kandjii rebutted.
Around 20:45, Khomas police commander Joseph Shikongo was called in.
On arrival, Shikongo made it clear that he has the authority and resources if that is what was needed to maintain law and order, noting that his wish though was to find a solution amicably.
Shikongo explained to Tjijeura that she is expected to abide by the police code of conduct at all times, adding that he genuinely listens to the plight of his members. As such, it was surprising for him that a police officer would turn into a vigilante, occupying a government property illegally without seeking audience from his office.
To this Tjijeura replied that she has been to Shikongo’s office several times, only for officials there to turn her away. She equally said she approached the works ministry on countless occasions but her cry fell on deaf ears.
“This is chaos that you want to create in Namibia, especially yourself being a police officer. Your behaviour is not acceptable. You could come and sit down and explain your situation. You can’t take the law into your own hands,” Shikongo told the officer.
He turned to Kandjii, accusing the councillor of instigating members of the public for political leverage.
The situation eventually calmed down and Shikongo, Kandjii and the two warring parties reached consensus that Tjijeura would vacate the premise on Wednesday, no later than 10:00.
Shikongo, without committing to a promise, asked Tjijeura to submit all her documentation and a letter detailing her issue to his office for consideration when houses become available for police officers.
On Wednesday, Tjijeura vacated the flat, telling Nampa: “I have nowhere to go. I will just be out in the open with my belongings.” – Nampa