New Era Newspaper

New Era Epaper
Icon Collap
Home / Traditional authority in sand mining storm

Traditional authority in sand mining storm

2022-07-15  Festus Hamalwa

Traditional authority in sand mining storm

Oneeya - Residents of Oneeya village in the Okalongo constituency of Omusati have expressed frustration over sand mining activities in their area, which they say is illegal.

The residents told New Era that there were no consultations with them regarding sand mining activities, although it has adverse effects on their livelihoods.

Both the headman and the traditional authority, however, deny granting permission for any sand mining in the area.

Villagers say the Uukwambi traditional authority has allegedly granted permission to a businessman to excavate sand in their community for his own profit.

They also claimed that they haven’t been party to any economic benefits stemming from this lucrative business activity. “Only the Uukwambi traditional authority benefitted when it allegedly got paid huge amounts of money from the company mining sand in the area,” charged one villager, who preferred anonymity. 

However, chief Herman Iipumbu of the Uukwambi traditional authority said he could not say anything at the moment.

“I will only comment after I had met with the villagers on the 27th of this month. We already scheduled the meeting,” he added.

The owner of Sanny Auto Repairs, Sonia Ambuga, conducts sand mining activities in the area, and confirmed the villagers’ suspicion by claiming that he was given permission by the traditional authority.

“The sand mining isn’t illegal. I used to pay N$250 per trip to the traditional authority,” he said.

He then used to sell sand to construction companies and the local community.

The villagers said huge pits left unrehabilitated after the excavation of top sand has serious repercussions, including the possible drowning of children and animals.

The sand mining activities started in 2018 until it was temporarily halted in June 2022 when residents took action to stop any further excavations.

Speaking to New Era, Oneeya village resident Albert Ndahalele narrated how the Uukwambi traditional authority has shown disrespect to local people because it has failed to approach them before the sand mining activities could start.

“We weren’t told that there were people coming to excavate the sand, neither has our headman spoken to us. That shows we aren’t regarded as human beings,” he lamented.

Ndahalele stated that the site where sand mining was done is not far from his house and is close to a church, a school and to some fences of the fields of community members.

He added that the cemetery usually gets extended over a period of time, but this is now going to be difficult since the space is no longer tenable.

“If we allow such activities to continue, where will the community extend to or bury their loved ones in the next five to 10 years?

“Our children, pensioners and disabled people are no longer safe when walking close to the excavation site because it is a very big risk,” he stressed. 

“We no longer have grazing. Our livestock will suffer because we normally graze here,” Ndahalele continued.

Concerned villager Edmund Wilhelm said they tried several times to stop the sand mining activities. 

“Excavation continued, despite the environment official’s instructions to stop in January. It only stopped in June when community members erected poles at the pit’s entrance on Sunday, the 19th,” he narrated.

He said their village is located in the Cuvelai water flow system and when it floods, the only grazing area left for animals is partly where this pit is being dug. 

Wilhelm noted that they tried to arrange meetings with the Uukwambi traditional authority, but the leaders have been trying to avoid them.

“This sand mining activity is about to block the access into houses of people living nearby, as well as damage the road that even people from other villages make use of,” he complained.

“There is fear that within the next five to 10 years, this pit will expand due to natural causes such as wind erosion and water run-offs. This will severely impact the environment,” he added. 

The villagers are thus demanding that sand mining activities come to a complete halt. 

They also appealed to the ministry of environment to order the traditional authority to rehabilitate the affected area.

Approached for comment, the headman of Oneeya village Josef Angula said he did not grant permission to anyone to excavate sand in his village.

Angula recalled being approached by a businessman, asking permission for sand mining in the village. Since he does not have power, he referred that person to the traditional authority.

“In subsequent days, I heard about sand mining activities taking place in our village. But I was not able to ask questions since I work under the authority,” added the headman.

Also speaking to New Era, a land committee member, who is also a coordinator in the office of the Uukwambi traditional authority, Kalimba Ofitukuti, said they did not grant permission to anyone to excavate sand in Oneeya village this year.

He reiterated that sand mining is completely illegal.

“Previously, we granted permission to some companies to excavate sand in Oneeya village, and their certificates expired last December,” he explained.

Ofitukuti said they also heard about the sand mining activity at Oneeya this year.

“Residents should stop accusing the traditional authority. If someone came to excavate sand, it does not mean the person has been sent by the authority,” he retorted.

He added that they would meet with the villagers of Oneeya on 27 July to deliberate on these issues.

2022-07-15  Festus Hamalwa

Share on social media