Land grab at Namibian holiday town

Windhoek - A group of informal settlement dwellers outside Namibia's coastal holiday town Swakopmund have occupied municipal land and want to settle there.

"We are overwhelmed by the huge numbers of people flocking here, and today we are 6000 people who will build shacks because we want to sleep here from tonight onwards," Gotthard Kandume, the group's spokesperson told a Sapa correspondent on Friday.

"We started as a group of 50 people on Wednesday setting up five poles to mark five plots with the words Erf 2014/1 to Erf 2014/5 written on cardboard, which we attached to the poles. Yesterday numbers grew to 1 000 people and today we are over 6 000," Kandume said.

Kandume is founder and president of the political party Christian Democratic Voice (CDV), established in 2012.

"Our actions are a wake up call for the Swakopmund municipal council, the mayor and politicians. We started affirmative repositioning of land. This space will change a lot over the next few days," he said.

"We want proper houses, not tiny houses like at the [existing] Mondesa location where we are squeezed like sardines and everybody can hear when we are making babies," he added.

The Swakopmund municipality tried to consult with Kandume and the group's leaders but they refused.

"We voted for Prime Minister Hage Geingob last month during elections to be our next president and we want him to speak to us, nobody else," Kandume told Sapa.

Geingob this week shifted his office to Swakopmund as it is the holiday season.

The Swakopmund municipality would not comment on the situation.

"We cannot comment until this matter is resolved," spokesperson Aili Gebhardt said on Friday.

In early November, a prominent member of the ruling Swapo party's youth wing, Job Amupanda, initiated a land grab with five people in the lush Windhoek suburb Kleine Kuppe. They cleared bush on an unserviced plot and erected a pole with a handwritten notice stating "Erf 2014, repositioning".

Amupanda a few days later resigned as information and mobilisation secretary of the Swapo Youth League. He was suspended from the party shortly afterwards.

Amupanda then called on young people to formally apply for a plot at the Windhoek Municipality. About 14 000 people heeded his call and filled in the application form Amupanda had distributed via e-mail. They handed them in at the municipality.

Amupanda gave the Windhoek municipality until July 2015 to make plots available.

"We call it affirmative repositioning of land and have received a lot of phone calls from people all over the country since November, but we are not directly linked to the Swakopmund action", Amupanda said on Friday.

"I will not be surprised if more people stand up and take land in towns," he added.

"If Windhoek does not act on our mass applications by next July we will be at the forefront of land occupation," he said.

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