Apr 07, 2014

Rehoboth Basters: Residents Demand Town Council’s Resignation

Rehoboth residents demonstrated before the town council, demanding that that the town’s CEO, Theo Janakowski, steps down. The protesters state that the town’s council has mismanaged community affairs and land distribution. 

Below is an article published by The Namibian:

Residents of Rehoboth on Friday [04 April 20] marched to the town council, demanding that the town’s CEO Theo Jankowski steps down.

In a petition handed to the town’s mayor, Eva Maasdorp, the crowd, chanting religious hymns and holding posters with political messages, stated that Jankowski has overstayed his term in office and that the mayor had orchestrated his illegal stay.

“He was supposed to have resigned last year but is still in office, we demand that he steps down at once” said one of the demonstrators, William Hochtritt, who also accused the council of mismanagement. 

The community, amongst other things, demanded that council reverse its new planned valuation roll on property, which they say is aimed at destroying the community and has not been performed in a transparent manner. They further accuse the council of moving at a snail’s pace in terms of land distribution as the majority of them remain landless. Residents also demanded that the academic qualifications of the town’s Resource Manager, Willie Swartz, be investigated, claiming he obtained his qualifications fraudulently. 
Residents say they have given the council seven working days to revert back to them and vowed to get violent if the council fails to respond. 

The demand for Jankowski’s resignation comes at a time when the town is facing a crisis of land grabbing. Community members feel the land freely belongs to them through the 1992 Rukoro Report, which was endorsed by Cabinet to make 3 000 erven available to the black community which was displaced under the apartheid rule within the boundaries of the town and 2 500 to the Rehoboth Basters under the Paternal Laws. The United People’s Movement has been actively pushing to implement this report.

In the petition, the community also demanded that the council drops legal action against Baster Kaptein John McNab who has allegedly been distributing free land to the Baster community since December last year [2013], backing his move up with the Rukoro Report.

“The council must immediately stop the planned action against Kaptein McNab and rather use that money to pay off debts we owe NamWater and others,” reads the petition.
McNab told The Namibian that he has given more than 1 000 Baster residents unserviced erven so far and only caters to the “baster-burgers”, who he say have a right to free land since the town belongs to them. “Our land was taken from us after Independence and it is our right to reclaim it,” he said, adding that he decided to take matters into his own hands after the council failed the people. 

However, the council argues that McNab’s actions are illegal and last month applied for a court order to stop him from distributing any more land. In the meantime, those who were given land by McNab were ordered to vacate immediately.

In an interview, Jankowski said that the Rukoro Report, despite the decision taken by cabinet, was “unimplementable” and therefore could not be used as a basis to randomly distribute land to the people.

“We find it challenging because we do not have the means or resources to implement it properly. The same people who are getting free erven from McNab today will soon be demanding that we service that land tomorrow,” he said. According to Maasdaorp, McNab does not have any mandate to distribute land because the Paternal Law under which he is operating is no longer recognised.

“The only institution that can distribute land is the town council, nobody else,” she said.
Maasdorp said the council has given 316 erven through the Rukoro Report since 2009, but finds it challenging to continue because of limited resources.

“We have requested people who live on these erven illegally to vacate, so that we can move them to a reception area while we figure out where to permanently locate them, but they have refused,” she said. “As for the qualifications of Swartz, he (McNab knows for a fact that he has legitimate qualifications.”

Jankowski told The Namibian that if he has overstayed his term in office, it was on the request of the council. “I have been requested by the council to stay on during the new CEO recruitment process that started last year, so that I can facilitate it accordingly. Interviews have already been conducted, but once this process has been completed, then I will resign,” he said.