DRC residents face mass evictions

By Jade McClune

HUNDREDS of people at the DRC informal settlement in Swakopmund are preparing to face down attempts by the municipality to move them to an unserviced strip of land near the airport on the eastern outskirts of the town.

On Tuesday a group of residents gathered to discuss their concerns and said defiantly: “We will not be moved.” They say in recent months, council officials have been driving around the DRC taking down erf numbers and telling people that they have to pack up and go build their shacks along the railway line near the airstrip.

The residents are outraged that after years of waiting for water services, now that the pipes have been installed they are being told to move. Community resistance in the DRC made waves in recent years and put the fear of hell into local politicians when DRC activists mobilised large numbers of people to demand water rights, land and basic services and in 2014 occupied the municipal premises for a week.

“We are also human,” a young unemployed man said yesterday with deep disappointment in his voice. “Why should we be homeless in our own country? Why should we be made homeless in our motherland? For how long can we take this?”

Their demand is that council should halt all plans to evict them, consult the people and offer them “permanent and serviced land” on which to build their homes. “We will not be moved unless you can provide us with serviced land in an area where we can build proper homes,” they said. “Permanent land”, shouted another.

The demand has been gathering support in the township, which has now grown to include an estimated 20,000 people since it first sprung up in the early 1900s. Evidence of mass support can be seen by the growing numbers of residents at the nightly meetings after work.

Caroline Kasenda, a kindergarten teacher that has been meeting on a daily basis with residents to discuss the way forward, said: “We won’t move. We can afford and want to pay for water and electricity services so our children can also grow up with the basic necessities like other children. They can’t take us from one to zero, at least I must move up to two,” she said by way of explaining that if council offered them a better option and serviced land, they would consider moving.

But the residents agree that they cannot move from bad conditions to worse, because lives are at stake, given the growing number of Hepatitis E cases recorded in recent months due to lack of access to water services and proper sanitation.

They say they still use pit latrines and have to walk far to collect water. While others are enjoying the benefits of living in the 21st century, DRC residents are living in the Dark Ages, without access to the most basic services to enjoy the benefits of modern civilisation, it was said.

Kasenda noted that the municipality recently installed water and power supply lines there, but she could not understand why they want the residents who waited so long – more than 20 years – to just get up and move to a place without services, taps, streetlights, toilets or power supply.

“People are burning to death in these shacks every day, because they don’t have electricity and water services. Now they want us to move to a place where there’s no toilet or water supply. How can we live like that? And who will rebuild our homes if we are forced to move every time?”

In a letter to Confidente, the residents said: “We cried for a long time because of this situation that we are in today. We are not treated as human beings in Namibia. We are not foreign. We are born here. Our ghettos burn every night. There is no safety for our children.”

In a second letter, they said: “We are an army … of DRC residents, well prepared to fight for our rights. Our first concern is that we want permanent land to live on, well-serviced with electricity and water and to have our own erf number on the municipal system.”

They further vowed to punish politicians at the ballot box in November if their concerns are not addressed. Municipal officials did not respond immediately to requests for clarification on their policy regarding the DRC, but all indications are that they will face fierce resistance on the ground.

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