By Jade McClune at Swakopmund
IN response to protests over service delivery at the town last week, the beleaguered mayor of Henties Bay has come out guns blazing to accuse some of the irate residents of being corrupt and seeking to bribe councillors.
A few dozen demonstrators from the poorest areas of the town, Omdel and !Oas, protested at the municipal offices at around noon last Wednesday to demand the removal of the councilors and mayor from office, over their apparent failure to keep election promises and provide adequate services, including land delivery.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Mayor Herman !Honeb said: “I know several of those guys who are accusing the councillors of corruption. They are actually corrupt.” Without naming anyone in specific, he claimed some residents tried to jump the queue and bypass procedures by coming to negotiate with him directly for housing and land.
“It is tantamount to corruption,” he claimed. “I can single out the people that are instigating and misleading the masses of Henties Bay. Some of them had houses already, some actually were disgruntled politicians, they are aspiring politicians, but the way they are doing it is not correct.
“And by the way Henties Bay is growing,” he added. “There are massive projects that are in [the] pipeline. Waterfront will be kick-started soon. We are expecting a railway; this road that is going through to Omakange to the north is going to be a boost for Henties Bay.’
In their petition, the residents said they represent more than 1,200 landless people, who have been waiting for plots. They’re angry over the water cut-offs, the lack of development and job opportunities, as well as the slow pace of youth and women empowerment, and accused the authorities of “self-enrichment”.
They further accused the council of downright racism, and said it gives “privilege and opportunity only to white people, but when it comes to the black people they always ignore us.” Council reportedly launched the latest round of water cuts in May, and residents blame the authorities for exposing them to health risks by cutting off the supply to their prepaid water meters, saying “most of us sit without drinking water”. The said at least three incidents of Hepatitus E were reported at town over the past few weeks, and this worried them.
The protesters further claimed that while their needs were neglected, councilors were allocating prime plots in expensive suburbs to themselves and relatives, which would later be sold on at a handsome price. They also suspect that municipal contracts were dished out to officials’ relatives and “well-connected” people, and made allegations of bribery and kickbacks – which were not substantiated.
/Honeb hit back, saying some of them will have to move: “The municipality has spent around five million [dollars] in !Oas to service [land] and create erven in that area, which of course is not enough for all the people that are in !Oas. I think less than maybe 30 percent of the people there have been allocated plots, and the rest (which is almost seventy percent) we have to relocate to other plots, so that that process [of land servicing] should be completed.”
/Honeb told NBC that 200 plots were ready and available in Extension 5 to be allocated to the new owners. He said land has also been set aside through an agreement with the Shack Dwellers Federation to provide erven for the lowest income households.
The protesters were adamant though that they want the town councilors gone by 31 December. They demand a fresh by-election at the town, or alternatively that an interim community council be set up to lead the municipality for two years.
Andreas Prins, spokesman of the Henties Bay Social Action Movement, who read the petition to the media, cautioned that “The revolution and uprisings will continue for as long as the inequality, racism, injustice and corruption are alive.”
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015