Park squatters cost millions - MET

There will be no negotiations with illegal squatters who refuse to vacate national parks, especially in Etosha where thousands of squatters are using water and electricity for free. Illegal squatting in Namibia's national parks is costing the Environment Ministry thousands of dollars in electricity and water bills every month. In the Etosha National Park, the ministry is now spending a massive N$700 000 on utilities each month.

According to the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, this would be massively reduced if illegal squatters were removed from the park.  Shi feta last week ordered all illegal squatters living in national parks to move, or they would be evicted and arrested, also if they tried to return. Shifeta told Namibian Sun that although the problem of illegal squatting persists in all the national parks, the major problem is in the Etosha National Park. According to him, the ministry is spending about N$700 000 per month on utilities at Etosha, with the larger portion of N$500 000 per month being spent on electricity.

"The burden is there because of the illegal squatting in the park, but once these people are removed from the park, the expense will also go down."

According to Shifeta, there arc many illegal squatters in the park and they were mostly brought in by relatives who work there. "They think they can just live there without paying water and electricity."

According to Shifeta, there are about 3 000 permanent staff living in Etosha, but there could be as many as 5 000 people in the park, including squatters. Shifeta said he had issued a directive to rid the park of all illegal squatters by Thursday. The minister said he had received positive feedback from park authorities saying that the order had been carried out. In January,
Shifeta uncovered drug smuggling, gambling, shebeens and squatting as among some of the illegal activities at Etosha According to

Shifeta, during that visit he had al ready told park authorities that squatters must be removed from the park "The problem then was that they tried to negotiate with these squatters and they were resisting. There should be no negotiations with these people. This is illegal and we do not negotiate with people that are breaking the law. I am not here to negotiate because I will recognize your illegal stay. The rules arc there to be obeyed." he said.

Asked how this problem would be contained in the future, Shifeta said all permanent staff would be issued with access cards and only spouses and children would be allowed to live in the pork with them. He stressed that legitimacy of marriages must be proven. :is well as proof of legally adopted children

"No girlfriend, boyfriend or brother or sister's child is allowed to live with you in the pork," said Shi feta. He said staff members should realise that living in the national parks was not a right but a privilege. Shi feta warned that any illegal squatters remaining in the park would be thrown out. "And if you try to enter again you will be arrested."

He also warned residents harboring illegal squatters that action would be taken against them. Permanent structures that been put up in parks will be demolished Shi feta said shebeens and gaimblmg machines previously' found at Etosha had been removed and his staff had put a stop to these illegal activities.