Monday, 16 June 2014

Davey Galant and our housing problem

(First appeared in Consumer News Namibia Magazine October 2013)

I once played a Cape Coloured man, Davey Galant, in the Adam Small play Joanie Galant-hulle. The play deals with the eviction of people of colour from their houses due to the South African government’s policy of Apartheid. The play deals with the difficulties in a family after the forced removal and the steady degeneration of Davey into drinking and other “typical” coloured behavior.

The version of the play I acted in was called “Eviction” and reworked by Namibian playwright Frederick B. Philander to find an echo with the forced removal of the “Ou Lokasie” residents in Windhoek on 10 December 1959.

This character seems to have become my alter ego, in terms of being “my second self, or a trusted friend. The recent evictions of poor members of society by the municipalities or town councils in Namibia have brought out this “trusted friend” who uses the line “huis, paleis, pondok… malhuis’ or in English, “house, palace, shack… madhouse”.

The issue of housing in Namibia cannot be separated with the right of each and every citizen to their dignity. Without a place of safety in which we can be assured our earthly belongings will be safe, none of us will be able to continue our contribution to the society as we would be fearful of leaving our belongings in a place that is not secure.
The Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) has announced an ambitious N$45 billion mass housing development programme through which it intends to build 185 000 houses by 2030 to mitigate the current nationwide 100 000 units housing deficit.

The initiative announced by the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, (Rtd) Major-General Charles Namholoh on 9 September 2013, will be implemented by the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) which is mandated to build low-cost houses for low-income earners and even for middle-income earners. This is the biggest housing plan ever to be launched in the country.

This comes about after President Pohamba appointed the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, the Director General of the National Planning Commission (NPC), the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Presidential Affairs as national committee members on the envisaged mass housing development programme. The group has been tasked to come up with ideas to accelerate the delivery of houses around the country to comprehensively address the issue of housing. It is intended that the programme will remedy the problem of inflated house prices and rental fees, which non-home owners are increasingly unable to afford.

While as consumers, we welcome the governments initiative we must ask some critical questions regarding the housing programme:
·         Does the NHE have the capacity to build 9 000 houses in the first 18 months of the programme? After all, NHE has only built 13 295 houses over the past 22 years and will now be the administrator of the mass housing programme.
·         How will financing of this programme be done? Conumer News Magazine has been informed that most of the financial will be done through government grants to be channelled through his ministry, local authorities and NHE but very few further details are available. The Minister also indicated that other sources of finance could be public-private partnerships, debt financing and household saving groups such as the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia.
·         Who will be the beneficiaries, and who will make that decision?

The Minister and the NHE need to address these pressing issues to assure the potential beneficiaries that there is finally light at the end of the tunneling for our housing woes.

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