After a reconciliation meeting failed, opposing sides in the sand mining saga have resorted to mudslinging and threats.
A meeting to bring together government, businesspeople, the Ondonga Traditional Authority and the community last Friday, was postponed. The community has vowed to never allow any sand and gravel mining in Oshikoto region, while environment minister Pohamba Shifeta has vowed to entirely shut down the Ondando-C burrow pit, which has been a bone of contention.
Shifeta also feels the matter is now being politicised.
The environmental commissioner shut down the pit in June, following community complaints and some irregularities, which were observed.
The site is licensed under the Ondonga Traditional Authority.
The meeting has since been postponed to 30 October. Meanwhile, the Ondonga Traditional Authority has warned the community and the minister, saying it also has the power to mobilise the masses and protest in the event the pit is shut down completely.
“We are not here to fight the government, so if the minister has the power to do so, he should proceed,” OTA spokesperson Kashona Kamalulu said.
“However, all the parties involved and against, should know that we have the power to demonstrate over such a decision. In fact, this whole issue is now politicised and is no longer about sand.”
Kamalulu said the traditional authority skipped previous meetings arguing that the OTA leadership was not properly informed and that meetings are being done in a haphazard manner.
“OTA will not entertain politicised public discussions for as long as we are not formally informed. Things are done office-to-office and not office to community. That’s why we are not attending because we, the leadership are not briefed. So, the minister should come down to the OTA and express himself with respect,” he stressed.
Shifeta, during a telephonic interview, blasted the traditional authority, saying they are often given the conditions and management plan when issued with the clearance certificate, but tend to ignore the enforcing rules.
“We always provide the applicants with all conditions, but they don’t guide those they contract on the manner to operate. So, we don’t address the contractor, we deal with the one we issued a certificate to. Businesspeople will operate how they feel, and when things go wrong, that is when I am called to address matters, yet they are told from the beginning,” stated Shifeta.
“I don’t know why the community is angry, because the decision to close the burrow pit is in their favour. So, if they have an issue, they should address it with the traditional authority because as an environment ministry, we don’t give or allocate land, rather we evaluate if the land given to an appellant is in line with our terms and conditions. Based on that, we issue a certificate or reject.”
The minister said the community and OTA should deal with the matter out of appeal secretariat prior to the end of October, so that they provide a way forward.
He has threatened to hand down an order to completely close the burrow pit and revoking the certificate of the traditional authority.
Affirmative Repositioning movement spokesperson Simon Amunime, who formed part of a meeting with the community on Friday, said they no longer have hope in the minister neither in the traditional authority, as they are failing to address the plight of the masses who they are supposed to serve.
“These people are only concerned about making profit instead of serving the interest of the masses. We will stick to our grounds that no sand mining will take place here in Oniipa or Oshikoto, as these actions are posing a great risk. Soon we will approach the courts to intervene if they are to impose or order that work at this burrow pit start,” he stressed.
However, both Kamalulu and Shifeta strongly feel politics have taken centre stage, all arguing that sand mining is now a scapegoat issue.
“If you failed politics, go home and enjoy your pension or leave politics to those who can, instead of mixing things. It won’t work,” stated Kamalulu.
“The ministry will not be drawn into addressing politics. We are objective and remain as such, all decisions are based on principles, guidelines and mandates,” said Shifeta.
On the other hand, Kamalulu has labelled the demand to stop sand mining as a misplaced request, labelling the advocates ungrateful as he argues that the construction industry is slowly collapsing because there is no more sand extracted.
“How will Oshikoto develop if we don’t have sand, how do we build roads, houses, shops among others? So, this backward reasoning will not be tolerated, and we reject it by all means.”