The event was a joint effort initiated by the Department of Architecture and Spatial Planning in collaboration with the Office of the First Lady of the Republic of Namibia, Madame Monica Geingos, the City of Windhoek, the Urban Design Institute of Namibia and the Namibia Institute of Architects.
The Public Forum, that aimed to find solutions to the problem known as ‘City Divide,’ a term coined by the UN Habitat, marked the climax of a four-day ‘City Design Masterclass’ where participants learnt about past and future problems, challenges, opportunities and solutions. The Masterclass was presented by Prof Fabio Todeschini, Emeritus Professor of the University of Cape Town.
The issue of ‘City Divide’ addresses the problem of the strain placed upon urban infrastructure by urban overpopulation. The Rector of the Poly, Prof Tjama Tjivikua, welcomed the participants and said the Poly hosted the event because it realised its obligation and character as an applied or technological university. “We have a duty to play a critical role in sustainable development by forming a critical and tangible link between knowledge generation and transfer of knowledge to society,” he said.
The Rector said that land management and city development driven by economic growth were not meeting the needs of the broader Namibian society but continue to prolong the legacies of apartheid. He expressed the hope that the Masterclass and the Public Forum would collectively serve as a sustainable responsive policy platform, a development roadmap and liberation from the past. He also hinted that the event will become an annual one.
The Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sophia Shaningwa, appealed to participants to redress the legacies of apartheid city planning and to create a new Namibia with renewed urban planning and design.
“It is a well known fact that our country has inherited various challenges which resulted from the apartheid system which favoured the minority. After 25 years of independence, Namibians are raising questions on policies and practices regarding fundamental issues affecting the daily lives of the citizens,” she said.
Shaningwa announced that the government had put measures in place to address the rural-urban migration problem. A new Urban and Regional Bill will provide an opportunity to change the existing apartheid spatial and urban form of Namibian towns and villages while urban areas will be established that will promote health, safety, order, amenities and convenience, environmental and economic sustainability.
“We must work hard towards improving the living conditions of our people in rural and urban areas by adopting a jointly developed Declaration and Action Plan which would help them to achieve well-coordinated urban development and manage the challenges of rapid urbanisation in a sustainable manner,” Minister Shaningwa said.