The Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia(SDFN) National Facilitator Ms Edith Mbanga gave a presentation to 2nd and 3rd year land management students at the polytechnic of Namibia on the SDFN’s link to the Flexible land Tenure Act , Act no 4 of 2012. Educating future professionals on the community’s process and creating a platform for the students to engage the SDFN directly. The lecture was proposed by Professor Wolfgang Werner.
Ms Mbanga informed the students : The Flexible Land Tenure Act, Act 4 of 2012 was initiated a long way after the Shack Dwellers of Namibia (SDFN) saving groups started organising themselves in 1987. The SDFN was consulted on the act before it was finalized. The act was only passed in parliament in November 2012; currently regulations are being formulated spearheaded by the Ministry of Land and Resettlement.
The SDFN has 19 540 in 14 Regions with 602 saving groups. The Groups have a total of N$16 999 112.28 from their daily savings as reported on the 14 July 2014 at the SDFN National Meeting. Out of all the members saving only 6073, 31 % have security of tenure. To date the SDFN have completed 3716. Community has profiled 246 settlements and 22. Settlements have been profiled in 119 localities across the country, 18 GIS maps produced. With a second phase of the Community Land Information Program there are 115 settlements enumerated 46 % of the informal settlements profiled.
The SDFN buys block of land from the LA that has only been serviced up to the boundary of the block. Initially 1 tap and 2 toilets are set up; to support the residents as they start constructing their houses, later on, individual installations are made by the group. Incremental development allows the low income to be able to improve their living conditions as they can afford.
The SDFN acquires land as a group, the land is acquired through member’s daily savings and loans for house construction and service installations are obtained from the Twahangana fund that is managed by the SDFN, with financial support from the Ministry of Regional Local Government, Housing and Rural Development (MRLGHRD) supported by the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG). Support on land surveying has been given in some areas by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlements (MLR). Once the group acquires the land members have a right to develop the land and elect heirs to the immovable property, through the land agreement that each member signs. Group ownership of title provides an affordable way to access security of tenure as conventional ways are too expensive for the low income. The group acquires block of land from a Local Authority, which they subdivide within the group, housing plans and the block layout is done by the group with the technical support of the NHAG. How the land will be managed and loans repayments are made is decided by the group. The members have a choice in in how long they will take to pay back the loan, with the average loan being N$ 27 000.00, there is a short term and a long term payment option with a 5% interest. Members are advised to pay their loans with 11 to 15 years.
Through the discussion , questions were raised on the running assumption that everyone wants freehold title, this was disputed by Ms Mbanga, “the majority of our members want security of tenure, and freehold can come later as the living conditions of the low income improve. Acquiring freehold is expensive; the professional fees that have to be paid to get individual title are too expensive’’.
People living in informal settlements and backyard shacks found a way to address their housing needs and access to title through group ownership.The Flexible Land Tenure Act will provide the legal backing to the current approach that the federation uses to get access to security of tenure. Getting their rights registered at the land rights offices will be an extra step that will support the groups.
Informative questions came from the students on the federation process, how does the federation get to get national coverage of the projects, Ms Mbanga informed the student that national coverage for the SDFN activities is done through;
- · Regular exchanges that community members make to different towns and settlements
- · Community land information program
- · Before it was house modelling, now its house openings, this encourages members of the community to see the fruits of working together, and start saving.
- · Radio announcements and also through various media.
Lessons and Challenges faced by the SDFN;
- · The availability of suitable, serviced land
- · The very high service fees are a severe for the groups
- · Only a well-organized and planned incremental development of land and property can be successful to improve the living conditions of the poor.
- · Saving groups are a powerful tool for the improvement of living conditions
A crucial factor in this development approach is the solidarity within the saving schemes. Upgrading from a starter title to a Land-Hold title will depend on the groups cooperation. The Code of Conduct or the Constitution of a group, seek to regulate the functioning of the groups and the rights and obligation of its members in the best way, the implementation of the FLTA will need to provide a better legal backing and network structures to support the saving groups.
Picture 4: SDFN National Facilitator Edith Mbanga (Middle), Ms Inga Boye SDFN member (left), Back Professor Wolfgang Werner Polytechnic Lecturer (Back) and 2nd and 3rd Land Management Students at the Polytechnic of Namibia.
watch this space as the Federation engages more students in the future on access to security of tenure and the community process