Lofty dreams have been sold but three years down the line, none of the fantastical plans to establish the much-vaunted multibillion-dollar Tsumeb smart city project has seen even the remotest possibility of kicking off.
The mega project, which was sought to be an economy booster, not only to the Copper Town but the nation, has remained dormant with only a few diehard supporters still harbouring hope of its implementation one day… far, far away in the future.
The failure of the programme to move even a single inch, since the launch in 2018, has drawn many to conclude that the overrated project has died a natural death.
No single activity has taken place after the groundbreaking ceremony in early 2019. MKP South Africa, a multinational company with a broad business portfolio in construction, banking, tourism and healthcare, is behind the mirage that set an April 2021 deadline.
“The plan is still in the pipeline, it is not dead at all, although there has been nothing done in terms of the actual work since the launching of the mega city,” said Lemmy Geingob, who is among people close to the implementation of the project.
“Covid-19 played a role in delaying the whole project, so, we are hoping to see something happening in the near future.” Meanwhile, Tsumeb mayor Mathews Hangula yesterday could neither confirm nor deny if the project is continuing.
“Two months ago, I spoke to (MKP South Africa CEO) Bizwell Mutale. He apportioned the delay to Covid-19. I am looking forward to meeting him soon, so that I can be briefed because now, I might say it is a failed project, while the investor might be of a different view,” said Hangula.
The planned project, which envisaged to be constructed on a prime land owned by businessman Kallie Grunschloss (near the town’s airport), could have complemented the mining and agricultural sectors, which are Tsumeb’s economic backbone, as well as create thousands of jobs, but this has turned to be a mere daydream.
The project will include a medical university that will provide an international standard education for approximately 25 000 students, providing them and all the staff with accommodation, complemented with a modern 800-bed hospital.
The smart city will also have six hotels, office parks, residential apartments, entertainment and recreational facilities. Several calls and messages sent to Mutale have not been answered, despite blue ticked WhatsApp messages.
Likewise, Grunschloss, who is a partner in the ‘venture’, also did not respond to requests for updates despite several attempts over the past months.
Avalanche of promises
The ‘investors’ in 2019, during the groundbreaking ceremony, made an avalanche of promises such as pledging a hefty monthly N$50 million to governing party Swapo, as a token of appreciation for providing a stable political environment and conducive investment area.
Another promise was a 10% royalty to the Tsumeb municipality and the community at large, for developmental purposes.
Contacted for comment, Swapo Party Youth League secretary Ephraim Nekongo, who was present at the groundbreaking, said he is not aware that any of those pledges materialised.
“Remember, even that time, I cautioned the investor to be sincere about the pledge and also that Swapo had channels to which such offerings can be handled. So, I can’t tell whether it happened or not,” briefly stated Nekongo.
Similarly, Swapo executive director Austin Samupwa, said such a commitment never reached his attention, neither is he aware of the pledge.
“I think the investors will be better placed to state if such a pledge still exists, because I wasn’t present at the time, so I know nothing about it,” he stated.
At the time, in 2019, after being prompted for clarity, Mutale said, “the money is intended to assist war veterans as well as fund other projects. This is in appreciating the good governance policies instituted by the Swapo-led government as part of [our] investment resolutions. Its policies target increasing investment and creating a politically stable environment, where investors and business alike can thrive.”
Mutale further justified the amount saying, “look, once this project is completed, it will make billions of dollars for MKP South Africa, and that’s quite a lot of money to be made for many years to come. What will we be doing with such money? We have to share, N$50 million is nothing compared to the billions to be generated.”