Swapo promises houses for the 7th time

By Eliaser Ndeyanale

THE ruling Swapo party has pledged in its recently launched election manifesto that if given another five-year mandate to govern, it would build 6 000 houses at an estimated cost of N$250 million. According to Swapo’s 88-page election manifesto for 2020-2025, the houses to be built would be for lower and middle income earners, especially police officers, teachers and nurses.

This is the seventh election in which Swapo is promising to address the escalating housing problem. In 2014, the party similarly promised to introduce programmes directed towards the engagement of stakeholders in housing provision and property development with a view to facilitate home ownership.

The governing party also promised that it would fast-track the upgrading of the fast growing informal settlements and shelters that have spread across the country, in partnership with the Namibia Shack Dwellers Association and private sector through the application of minimum housing standard policies.

“Accelerate the servicing of land in urban areas and townships to support the upgrading of informal settlements. Fast-track the realization of the NHE project to build houses for residents of informal settlements who own plots but cannot afford modern structures,”

the party promised.
It further promised to coordinate interventions by central government, regional and local authorities to boost delivery of more houses, especially for low-income households and first-time home buyers.

The party said from 2014-2019, the Swapo led government delivered 3 958 homes while houses delivered through the Build Together pro- gramme numbered 874. The houses funded through the Shack Dwellers Association numbered 1 501.

Despite observable evidence of
the growing ratio of shacks to brick homes in urban and rural areas, the Swapo Party further alleged marked improvements in the percentage of households living in modern housing structures, from a baseline of 40% in 2013 to 45.2% in 2017, against a target of 60%.
The manifesto speaks of “Construction of more than 8 100 houses

across the country between 2016 and 2017; of these more than 3 400 were constructed under the national mass housing initiative, while 1 598 were built in collaboration with the private sector through public private partnerships.”

It further promised to financially assist local authorities to increase the supply of serviced residential land. “The Swapo party will review the distribution methods used by local authorities to ensure that households in real need of housing enjoy priority; and review the national housing policy, especially with regard to the provision of funding for low-income housing,” the 2014 manifesto stated.

Critics respond to the 2019 manifesto

Political analyst Ndumba Kam- wanyah said: “It's hard to believe that this time around, in the remaining four years of Geingob [as President of Namibia], the party will deliver on the

housing promise it could not deliver in 29 years. Not under the current economic situation, which is forecast to continue for a long time.

“The pertinent policy question to ask is how will the housing promise be financed and where will the money come from? That must be answered first, otherwise it's another empty dream. But if it will happen, miracles are real.

“Corruption and lack of clear implementable policy [are key prob- lems]. There are too much corruptive practices in the housing industry, like what we have seen in the mass hous- ing scheme and the allocation of land and plots. In the absence of a clear and implementable policy, corrup- tive practices and ineffectiveness are bound to happen.”

As to the country's economic woes, he said: “Under the current economic conditions it’s difficult for a housing market to thrive equitably. Two, corruption must die for the nation
to succeed in delivering housing, especially to the majority poor of this country.”

Professor Henning Melber, who also teaches at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said: “Having made unfulfilled promises over and over again, it is difficult to trust an election programme which repeats the same mantra. I think ‘seeing is believing’ might be the best attitude. Given the ongoing economic crisis, it is hardly

conceivable that any promises requiring big financial investments can be fulfilled in the near future.”

Asked why the ruling party had so far failed to provide affordable housing, Melber said: “The non-delivery is the result of several contributing factors: lack of sufficient funds in the state budget, bureaucratic inefficiency, flawed tender processes, non-delivery by construction companies, corruption. Altogether, this resulted in a failure to use the money available for the purpose earmarked.”

As to whether Swapo can honour its promises, the renowned academic said: “First of all, such a promise should be realistic, that the target can be met. Then the state budget should live up to the promises, followed by an efficient bureaucracy implementing the declared intention, overseeing a tender process which is not marred by preferential treatments and allocation of funds to those who cannot deliver.

Melber believes “Low-cost housing remains an important priority, but given the dimension of the problem and its challenges, it will remain a long process to provide any decent housing for the majority of people now living in shacks and informal settlements.

In the midst of recession funds are insufficient.

"Parties should offer realistic plans that are “doable” and not just a list of wishful thinking, he advised.