The urgency of Namibia’s urban land and housing issues is clear to many in light of the ever-increasing number of informal settlements across the country. This has caused dissatisfaction among Namibian activists, and led to the formation of the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement in 2014. They have since organised various interventions, including two demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience in their struggle for improved urban land rights for poor and marginalised Namibians.
Likewise, a group of students and lecturers from the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) are, in collaboration with the Shack Dwellers’ Federation Namibia (SDFN) and the Namibia Housing Agency Group (NHAG), servicing, demarcating and formalising land plots – locally known as an erf (singular), or erven (plural) – across Namibia’s informal settlements. Freedom Square and Kanaan in Gobabis are both examples of the success of this initiative.
The issue of informal settlements has also caught the attention of Namibian artists such as those in the arts collective Decolonizing Space, who, among other things, address issues of urban land rights through arts interventions such as the Land Pavilion Project. Private actors are equally engaged on the issue, with a recent example being Standard Bank’s “Buy-a-Brick” campaign.
The Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) for these projects historically amount to around 0.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They deem this to be inadequate for reversing Namibia’s current housing backlog, which some estimate to be around 300 000 housing units. (More on GRN intentions – NPC).
Between 1992 and 1998, the GRN commenced with the development of the Flexible Land Tenure System (FLTS) – a three-step land tenure system for low and middle-income groups residing in informal areas. The system allows these residents to upgrade and formalise their land, starting from a “starter title”, and moving up to a “land hold title “ that provides initial tenure security until residents have resources to upgrade to a “freehold titled deed”. The Flexible Land Tenure Act (No. 4 of 2012) (FLTA) was, however, only enforced in parliament during May 2018 with it’s subsequent Regulations.
Currently we were not able to make a proper assessment of its implementation, but it is striking to note that the implementation of this system is only occurring more than 20 years after the formulation of the FLTS.
Following increasing public attention on the country’s land issues, Namibia held its Second National Land Conference on 1–5 October 2018. One component that
distinguished this conference from the First National Land Conference, which was held in 1991, was the topic of urban land.
The LAC has received a research grant from the United States Department of State to compile a series of concept chapters on land issues, with a comprehensive and updated examination of the land rights of indigenous and marginalised communities in Namibia including that of Urban Housing.
The book titled “Neither here nor there”, may be accessed fully on our site and is available at the LAC and some book dealers for N$200.