The Head of State President Hage Geingob yesterday handed over houses to people who 13 months ago became victims of a fire that burned down a whole informal settlement of shacks in Walvis Bay.

The settlement known as Twaloloka (Oshiwambo word for ‘we are tired’) was gutted down on the evening of 26 July 2020, burning to ashes everything the people owned, including an eighteen-month-old baby boy.

As a reaction to the tragedy, government officials came over with various promises for the fire victims. Not only did the victims get relocated into tents, and the place was renamed Otweya (we have come), but a plan was put into action to build houses for the victims.

Geingob said that the occasion he was officiating showed that it was correct when it is said that, “Hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams.”

“Today, out of the ashes of those shattered dreams, hope is rising like a phoenix.

“In the aftermath of that fateful day, Government declared the site of the tragedy as a disaster site. Furthermore, the Government ensured that the affected people were provided with makeshift shelters, food, blankets, as well as assistance to recover national documents lost in the fire.

“Furthermore, Cabinet resolved to construct thirty-one houses for the Otweya fire victims, to the tune of approximately Forty-three Million Namibia Dollars. The remaining forty-three houses are constructed by the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia, through the Standard Bank – Build a Brick Project.

“I am therefore pleased, that after this tragic incident, we can meet today to partake in the handing over of these houses to the Otweya fire victims, cementing our commitment to address the issue of decongestion of informal settlements, to provide housing to the masses and to improve the livelihoods of our people.

“We will continue with this strategy and call on all local authorities to support this initiative by providing land where possible,” President Geingob said.

The President commended the Minister of Urban and Rural Development for executing the Cabinet resolution efficiently and effectively, and he also thanked the Office of the Erongo Regional Governor for “his excellent coordination of the project, not forgetting all stakeholders who have turned this idea into a reality.

“To the recipients of these properties, please make sure that you cherish and look after these houses.”

Geingob also requested the Walvis Bay Municipality to name one of the streets at Otweya after young Fillipus Mandha who died in the fire.

In the photo: President Hage Geingob cutting the ribbon as he opened the first house.