Land reform ignores urban slum crisis

With the land conference starting this week, experts are worried about the lack of attention government has allotted to the steep rise of urban slums.

01 October 2018 | Local News

Ignoring the urban land crisis could come at a huge cost, with nearly 50% of urban residents squatting in roughly 140 000 urban shacks they do not own with the threat of eviction further weighing down their existence.

A study on informal settlements released last year warned that “the economic, social and environmental costs of informal growth and unplanned urban development are huge for Namibia as a country, and as a society.

“New forms of poverty and inequality will be entrenched over generations to come if towns fail to develop ways that facilitate the transition from rural to urban society.”

Co-authored by Beat Weber of the Development Workshop of Namibia (DWN), he warned this week that the costs “can hardly be overestimated”, warning the hardships of life in informal settlements create “hotbeds of crime and social unrest and create massive legacies to be dealt with by future generations and governments”.

Last year Herbert Jauch of the Economic and Social Justice Trust (ESJT) said Namibia is facing a “trend towards the emergence of slums in our urban areas.

Unemployment, low wages and the resultant poverty have led to this trend as more and more people move to larger towns in the hope of making a living there.”

Weber and John Mendelsohn of Raison concluded in a study released last year, that by 2023 the number of urban shacks will outnumber rural houses. In seven years, by 2025, shacks are likely to be the predominant type of housing in Namibia.

“Namibia will have over half a million urban shacks 13 years from now in which about 2 million people will live,” 'Informal settlements in Namibia: their nature and growth', warned.

Jauch said the issue has in part worsened because of the current housing market, which has catered for the middle class and elite, cutting out the poorest of the poor.

Failure to respond

Critics agree that to date, government has failed in its efforts to address urban housing despite the fact that Namibia is going through a rapid ­transition from a rural to urban society.

In the early 1980s only 9% of Namibians lived in towns, compared to nearly 50% today.

Chris Brown of the Namibia Chamber of Environment (NCE) warned that this trend cannot be stopped, but despite this “virtually nothing has been done by central government to proactively manage and guide this urbanisation process.”

Studies show that since Independence, a total of 59 000 houses, beneficiaries or plots, of which government programmes produced a total of 30 400 at a rate of almost 1 100 per year, came to fruition.

Mendelsohn, who has undertaken multiple studies on the issue and strongly advocates for minimally serviced land provision instead of housing, said this “is about 14 times lower than the annual growth of informal housing in urban areas, which now amounts to about 15 000 new informal shacks each year. The numbers demonstrate how little government has achieved with public funds.”

Yet, despite the crisis of urban land described as Namibia's most pressing socio-economic and sustainable development issue, a recently leaked government discussion paper for the upcoming conference, only briefly touches urban land reform.

Moreover, the two recommendations on capacity building and new funding models contained in the paper “misses the point”, Mendelsohn said.


According to the Shack Dweller's Federation, their programme has shown that they “can develop their own land, building their own houses and all that is required is that local authorities and government do not view them as recipients, but as partners”.

However, they warned that government's lack of focus on the urban housing crisis fails to recognise that this issue “affects the largest portion of our population, that the largest portion cannot even afford a fully serviced plot, as a potential to move from a corrugated iron house to a brick house.”

Weber said “experiences by local authorities suggest the most effective way to counter informal settlement sprawl is to make sure people settle orderly from the beginning. This can be achieved by planning new settlements in advance, peg those settlements and provide initial minimal services to safeguard sanitary standards.”

Multiple studies have proven the cost-effectiveness of this strategy, including two recent projects supported by the NCE and DWN in Oshakati and Karibib. Weber said while “current legislation may be complex and out-dated, such projects can clearly be implemented within the context of the current legal framework.”

He praised the fact that several local authorities have begun to implement these approaches, ensuring that informal settlements are growing in a planned manner, with roads, measured plots and reserves for future infrastructure upgrading.

“Such settlements can be upgraded over time with additional services and later proclaimed as formal residential areas, where residents pay rates and taxes.”

He added that on the matter of land, property and housing, “it is hard to avoid the view that there is little vision or sense of urgency in the halls of power.”

Similar News


Met of sonder naam

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | Local News

Windhoek • Yolanda Nel Wanneer jy Rehoboth se strate begin op of af ry, vra jy nie vir iemand 'n straatnaam nie, want boorlinge van...

Konsternasie oor advertensiebord

2 months ago - 10 March 2019 | Local News

Windhoek • Yolanda Nel'n Inwoner van Windhoek is woedend ná hy in 'n motorongeluk betrokke was wat hy toeskryf aan 'n advertensiebord wat motoriste se...

OKH councillors ignore deadline

3 months ago - 10 February 2019 | Local News

Windhoek • Yolanda NelA letter from the office of the secretary general of the SWAPO party, Sophia Shaningwa, stated that the swearing-in of local authority...

Forumlede staan voor /Goagoses

3 months ago - 10 February 2019 | Local News

Yolanda Nel Lede van die Rehoboth Begraafplaas Ontwikkelingsforum (RCDF) is Woensdag na die dorpsraad se kantoor ontbied ná ’n advertensie van ’n beplande massavergadering op...

Rehobothers boikot vulstasie

3 months ago - 10 February 2019 | Local News

Yolanda NelNa jare se beweerde mishandeling en swak diens deur personeel, staan die pendel-gemeenskap van Rehoboth nou saam om ’n vulstasie in die hoofstad te...

Omitara in a sorry state

3 months ago - 10 February 2019 | Local News

Lack of access to land, limited employment opportunities, drugs and alcohol abuse are all factors that contribute to high poverty and crime levels in the...

Hard work pays off for youth

3 months ago - 03 February 2019 | Local News

Yolanda Nel • WindhoekIn a community where running water and electricity is a luxury, a group of girls has pro-ven that it is up to...

Gobabis wants locals employed

3 months ago - 03 February 2019 | Local News

Employing locals from a specific area will not only benefit the people but the community at large, says Gobabis municipality's chief executive Ignatius Thudinyane.He feels...

Grondsmouse moet ligloop

3 months ago - 03 February 2019 | Local News

Yolanda Nel • RehobothRehobothers wat hulself daaraan skuldig maak om grond wat aan die ­dorpsraad behoort te koop en verkoop, sal moet ligloop.Die Rehoboth dorpsraad...

’n Slang in die gras

5 months ago - 17 December 2018 | Local News

Yolanda Nel - Ná ’n hondjie sy mense-familie van ’n moontlike sebraslang-aanval gered het, het die buurtwag vir hom ’n baie spesiale toekenning gegee.Simba, die...

Latest News

Toilet in hotel se plek

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | Infrastructure

Okahandja • Yolanda NelTwee maande ná die Okahandja Hotel-gebou stil-stil in die dorp gesloop is, het inwoners nou 'n nuwe hoofpyn, met die rommel wat...

Met of sonder naam

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | Local News

Windhoek • Yolanda Nel Wanneer jy Rehoboth se strate begin op of af ry, vra jy nie vir iemand 'n straatnaam nie, want boorlinge van...

Watertekort in hoofstad neem toe

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | Disasters

Skaars twee weke ná die Windhoekse munisipaliteit aangekondig het daar is vooruitgang in terme van waterbesparings – hoewel gering – tree streng waterbeperkings op 1...

Klokkie van hoop

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | People

Windhoek • Yolanda NelDie agtjarige Marjuné Fleschig is verlede Oktober met leukemie gediagnoseer.Sewe maande later kan die gesin weer ’n bietjie asemhaal nadat sy verlede...

Donated kennels making a difference

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | Social Issues

Swakopmund • Adolf Kaure The Township Doghouse Project recently handed over doghouses to dog owners in the DRC informal settlement. The privately funded charity strives...

Aardse vreugde

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | People

Windhoek • Yolanda NelOngeag jou eetstyl of dieetvoorkeure, almal is elke dan en wan lus vir 'n skeppie roomys of 'n pizza met kaas. En...

Chicken for beef

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | Agriculture

Palmwag • Nina Cerezo Gabes /Goagoseb sits on his shady veranda. In the surrounding garden, cacti and other plants are blooming, a window of his...

Namibia still imports too much...

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | Energy

Windhoek • Ellanie SmitNamibia is aiming to generate 80% of its electricity locally within the next four years, which will assist in sustaining the growing...

Beer Pong for Hope

6 days ago - 19 May 2019 | Social Issues

The Auas Valley Shopping Mall recently donated food and basic necessities valued at N$10 000 to the Hope Village in the capital, following the Clausthaler...

Load More