The recent bombshell decision by the Minister of Mines and Energy, Mr. Tom Alweendo, to drop the local ownership empowerment criteria to apparently attract mining investors to grow the Namibian mining sector is a serious retrogressive set-back to say the least.
Such unwarranted powers to make such decisions should be seriously checked as no one individual should without broad consultation simply change the future dynamics of the entire mining industry based on one sided bad advice, personal emotions and shortsightedness.
In fact, the adverse recommendations and sudden celebration of the Chamber of Mines of this negative decision by the Minister of Mines and Energy should be condemned with the contempt it deserves, as this agent is becoming more anti-Namibian economic progressiveness in terms of indigenous mining ownership, and direct participation in the mining sector for the complete benefit and control of foreign investors. This entity was supposed to embrace the long term Namibianisation of the mining sector due to its potential positive impact on the Namibian economy.
This terrible decision is a clear admission by the Minister of Mines that Namibians are in the way of foreign investors, hence the need to get them out of the way to apparently grow the mining sector. This negative posture smacks of a total lack of know-how and confidence by the Ministry of Mines and Energy to find an appropriate empowerment model, which will enable Namibians to directly participate and benefit from their own natural resources.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy was supposed to hold an inclusive and extensive mining indaba to get the views of all concerned Namibians so that a collective decision could be made. To simply wake up one day and give away the complete ownership, control and benefit to foreign investors, for what God has bestowed upon a nation, to apparently grow the industry, is totally unfair, economically unjustified and can be alluded to traitorousness. What this decision basically means is that, regardless of the quantity of potential oil discovered, or uranium deposit found, or new diamond deposits discovered, Namibians should indefinitely simply be side admirers, whilst the foreign investor enjoys the full benefit of these natural resources unchecked from our motherland. This decision should be rescinded soonest before further damage is done to the Namibian economy.
The Namibian government spends billions of dollars yearly on the education sector but is without a doubt failing to utilise this leverage to competitively manage its human capital to eventually fully exploit and benefit from its natural resources. No country can strive to become economically independent, if it does not have faith and confidence in its people, and their ability to fully control their own destiny. It is a known fact that the Founding President made it clear at independence in 1990 that Namibians should, going forward, shape their own future and never again to be a slave to anyone. This decision by the minister of Mines is a clear testimony that this noble goal will never be achieved. How do you shape your national destiny for the benefit of your people if you do not control the tools to achieve those goals?
Mining is an irrefutable back-bone of the Namibian economy, and for anyone out of nowhere to legally exclude Namibians not to directly participate and benefit from their own natural resource blessing, is as good as selling off the country’s natural resources to the highest bidder.
What is perhaps one of the problems is the current exploration and mining empowerment model, which has benefited a few individuals. But this does not without broad consultation justify abolishing the entire local empowerment criteria. Another factor, which is beyond the control of Namibians, is the global commodity prices of precious minerals, which due to geo-political and economic factors has over the last few years negatively affected many mining commodities. For instance, the price of copper plummeted a couple of years back and has since struggled to return to normalcy. The price of uranium, due to the tsunami incidence in Japan a few years ago, has negatively affected the global nuclear energy appetite for this precious resource. The price of gold and diamonds have been relatively stable but not at desirable prices.
All these factors, among many, have nothing to do with indigenous inhabitants to be in the way of investors, except lack of innovative thinking to ensure that Namibians remain part and parcel of the natural resource endowment beneficiation model. Mining is obviously from the onset an expensive economic activity but that does not justify the total exclusion of Namibians to fully benefit from their own natural resources. The initial investment costs in the mining process are astronomically high but any sane person knows that overtime, these investors recover their investment and thereafter leap a profit for a considerable timeframe. Yes, the mining industry does require at certain levels various types of expertise here and there, but Namibians are trainable people and should not be taken for granted not to be able to fully run mines. This negative perception should be condemned with the highest contempt it deserves.
This decision, therefore, has in fact opened up the full exploitation of the country’s natural resources by foreign investors, without any direct participation by the locals leaving them just as workers and mere spectators while their minerals are being shipped out of the country in large quantities. The Namibian mining sector cannot and should not therefore be left entirely to foreign investors.
In conclusion, Namibian minerals belong to Namibians and the government should strictly ensure that Namibians participate, both directly and indirectly, in their own natural resources blessing so as to shape their national economic destiny accordingly. Namibia is among a few nations that are perfectly blessed with many natural resources, and has great potential to discover many more commercial resources that can significantly turn around the dismal economic condition of the country.
* Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian Socio-Economist who strongly believes in the nation’s vision 2030 development agenda
New Era Reporter
2018-11-02 10:22:11 8 months ago