Windhoek is one of the most expensive cities, City management to blame- PDM
By Nico Smit, MP
The fact that City of Windhoek is in deep financial trouble comes as no surprise to the PDM or the man on the street who has long been struggling to see any benefit to citizens from the rates and taxes and other fees extorted from them on a monthly basis.
The City of Windhoek finds itself in exactly the same situation as the Swapo run National Government – no money in its coffers. If this does not prove complete mismanagement at the highest levels then nothing will ever convince this nation to change its political allegiance.
The city’s streets remain in a disgraceful condition, traffic control is a disaster area despite the N$200 million spent annually on transport, crime continues to escalate despite the N$338 million we spend on the City Police annually, parks and recreation areas are non-existent or neglected and populated by the homeless instead of our children, and the number of people begging for a serviced erf on which to erect some form of housing simply continues to escalate with no solution forthcoming from the city managers. People continue to land in hospital as a result of Hepatitis-E, cholera and diarrhea – something that must be laid directly at the door of the Windhoek Municipality for failing to provide sanitation and other services in the informal settlements.
The PDM was deeply shocked and dismayed when the City of Windhoek’s strategic executive head of finances, Mr Jerome Davis admitted to the Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association last week that the city has awarded a salary increase of 8% or even 9% to its 3500 employees, despite the fact that the city has no money and the national inflation rate is only 4%.
This increase came into operation on the same day that the city announced a whole raft of large increases in services to the public, including water, funerals and the use of municipal swimming pools. It has now come to light that the price of electricity is also set to increase by 7,6%. The city’s citizens will be excused for believing that these service increases must pay for the fat-cats’ salary increases.
All these increases at a time when the country’s economy is on its knees and thousands of people remain unemployed must surely shame the city managers for failing to look after the interests of the citizens who pay their salaries instead of simply ignoring the plight of these same people and the thousands living in the growing informal settlements around the city!
The PDM finds it difficult to understand how Mr Davis can justify the fact that Windhoek is not bankrupt only because its assets exceed its liabilities! From his remarks last week it is clear that the city has been failing in its duty to its citizens for the past 29 years! It has been spending money it does not have on things it does not need instead of looking out for the people from whom it has been extorting these exorbitant fees. His figures show that there is a municipal official for every 114 people living in Windhoek – and yet it takes weeks or even months to get a building plan passed!
Mr Davis stated that one of the city’s main stumbling blocks is the fact that it does not have a long term financial model according to which it should operate. The PDM is flabbergasted – what have the city managers been doing to earn the enormous salaries they receive if they have failed to draw up such a crucial document in their 29 years at the helm? Surely it is time for a change.
Another figure mentioned by Mr Davis that boggles the mind is the N$205 million that is spent on the offices and support staff of the city’s CEO and mayor – perhaps he should have informed the public exactly what these two people, and more specifically the mayor, actually do to earn their huge salaries and how this benefits the citizens of Windhoek.
The PDM is deeply worried about the financial disaster and imminent collapse of Namibia’s capital city as a result of the city’s maladministration by the people elected to look after the citizens’ welfare and interests. It is becoming clearer every day that the people we have put in charge of our city have no clue or interest in prioritising the projects that are required to develop the city and provide decent lives for citizens, although this is the most important task of any city council and municipality.
Let us look at these priorities: first and foremost, the people need serviced erven on which to erect houses of their choice. This municipality has ever since Independence never taken land delivery seriously – this in fact is true for all municipalities throughout the country. This tactic should be seen as a deliberate plot by the ruling party to escalate land prices beyond the majority’s means in a blatant attempt to increase their income by way of rates and taxes and services. However, they fail to use this income to improve services, which is their main responsibility, and rather keep increasing their salaries.
The PDM believes it is time to demand accountability from these people – if they cared at all for the people who pay their salaries every month they would have done the honourable thing and refused their salary increase at a time when everyone is aware of the desperate economic situation being experienced throughout the country.
Allow me to sketch the history of the problem of land delivery and permanent squatter camps that has clearly overwhelmed the municipalities throughout Namibia. In 1990, at Independence, people streamed to the various urban areas in hopes of finding a better life. This caught most city and town councils with their pants down – they tried to handle the influx of thousands of people by measuring out small plots around the cities and towns and allowing people to squat there. They provided no services – no water, no electricity, no sanitation, no roads, and no transport – but told people to put their names on a so-called waiting list while the municipalities serviced plots that could then be bought by these squatters.
Thirty years down the line, this promise has not been fulfilled. It was decided in 1991 that Government should spend 5% of GDP on national housing annually but at no time since then has this figure exceeded 0,1%. This makes it clear that neither the Swapo led national government nor its local governments have ever taken the plight of the poor seriously – they have turned our people into a nation of beggars and permanent squatters. They squander our hard-earned money on unimportant projects such as providing the Defence Force with money to buy weapons for a war we will never fight and farms that soldiers do not need. Not to mention the palatial new parliament building they think this country needs that will cost billions while our people continue to live in shacks or under bridges. There are many such national and local projects that show the lack of priorities of both the government and municipalities.
The PDM would solve this problem of land delivery in urban areas by contracting private companies to service the plots at present occupied by squatters. This is in line with the national policy set out in 1991 as indicated earlier. These plots would then be transferred for free to their occupants so that these people would at last become the legitimate owners of a piece of Namibia – another unfulfilled promise by the Swapo led government at Independence. The PDM wants to be clear about its land delivery policy: it cannot only be applied to Windhoek as this would cause an even greater influx than is the case at present – it must be applied to every municipality in Namibia and it must be strictly enforced. The City of Windhoek should be able to service a minimum of 10,000 plots per year if it gives the work to reputable companies and carries out its responsibility of proper supervision of both the allocation of the money and the quality of the work done within a given time.
The PDM believes that it is a disgrace that the City of Windhoek had the audacity to award these salary increases at a time of national economic recession, when thousands of people are losing their jobs left, right and centre and there is no relief in sight for the poor people living under desperate conditions. It is obvious that the situation the city finds itself in should be laid directly at the door of the city management and it is time for them to step up and shoulder their responsibilities or ship out.