When the long-awaited formalisation of Swakopmund’s DRC informal settlement started in 2013, residents feared they would be removed from their little pieces of land, just for someone wealthier to eventually snatch these from them.
The fears were used for political campaigning between the three major parties: Swapo, RDP and DTA, all vying for the approximately 10 000 strong community’s votes – promising them that if they are voted into power, they would bring services and affordable housing to the people, unlike the alleged broken promises from the previous local authorities and governments.
The emotions of the community were whipped up, and regular protests even led to clashes between DRC residents and the police on the Swakopmund municipal premises – this regardless of numerous attempts of reassurances from the municipality that the fears and claims were unfounded.
Today, nearly four years later, the formalisation process is continuing and by next year, the 1 350 erven in the ’old’ DRC will have water, sewerage and electricity; ’luxuries’ that have been absent since the DRC was established in 2000. And the irony of the matter is that every household remained where they settled from the start without being moved.
“If there was any moving to be done, it was a little to the left or right, just to get out of the way for the contractors to install the pipes,” said DRC community activist and Swapo branch leader Ambrosius Marsh.
“It was not all gloom and doom as was speculated, but we believe that the voice of the people of the DRC was heard, and that is why everything turned out positive,” he told The Namibian.
Tractors and workmen are seen at various locations inside the DRC, where deep trenches are being dug or filled right next to shacks. In the trenches, pipelines for water and sewerage are being laid.
Residents, to date, have to get their water from pay-points, while toilet facilities are deplorable, many residents opting to resort to the surrounding desert environment.
Electricity will also be connected soon, where to date residents depend on wood, gas and paraffin for cooking, light and heat.
Residents to whom The Namibian spoke last week admitted that they were scared of the formalisation.
“We have been waiting for services since 2000, but then it was rumoured that we could lose our erven, and that we’d be moved to the dumpsite,” one man said.
“We are very happy to see what is happening here. Soon, we will live normally like everyone else,” said a woman near a construction site.
There are new sections to the DRC which do not form part of the ’old’ informal settlement, and therefore do not fall under the formalisation process – yet. These squatters, numbering in the thousands, also demand services. But according to municipal officials, residents there also have to follow the correct procedures, such as first registering as Swakopmund residents.
According to the general manager for community development services at the Swakopmund municipality, Mike Iipinge, these people have occupied municipal land without permission from the municipality, consequently erecting illegal structures on the land.
They have been requested on several occasions to move from the land and demolish and remove their shacks, or face forced removal.
Many in the ’old’ DRC told The Namibian that those squatting have heard about the formalisation taking place, and therefore hope to get cheap land.
“There are many who are not even from Swakopmund and who already have property elsewhere. Now, they come and take a piece of land and rent out the shack, hoping that eventually they will get the land. That will not work,” one resident said. “They must be from Swakopmund, and they must follow the right procedures and wait for their turn, just like we did.”
According to Marsh, the DRC is going to have a “big party” once the formalisation is completed and people are allocated their erven.