Villagers of Ondado C in Oniipa are demanding a complete halt to the sand mining activities in the area.
The community has further lashed out at the Ondonga Traditional Authority as well as environment minister Pohamba Shifeta after an appeal meeting on the sand mining activities was postponed at the eleventh hour.
This is the second time that the meeting is suddenly postponed. The meeting sought to iron out a long standing conflict between the OTA that was granted a mining licence to extract sand at Ondado C against the wishes of the community.
In June, that licence was revoked following complaints from the community, of which the environmental commissioner Timoteus Mufeti found that the OTA has transgressed after the extraction activities interfered with underground water.
The OTA was then given until August 30 to rectify the issue. However, this was not done, forcing the line minister to intervene and mediate in seeking a lasting solution. The first meeting a few months ago also failed to materialise after none of the representatives from the OTA turned up. The latest meeting was postponed
after Shifeta, who is chairing the appeals committee, could not make it due to a death in the family. The no-show was not taken lightly by the community who castigated both OTA and the minister, saying they are incapable of addressing the plight of the people.
They then vowed to not allow any sand or gravel mining activities in Oniipa and Oshikoto region by extension. Approached for comment, Mufeti said he doesn’t have the mandate to discuss issues that are before the appeals
“The environmental commissioner does not have any mandate to deal with issues that are under the appeals secretary, hence I cannot comment anything,” he said. The community and the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement condemned the mining activities, saying it has caused destruction to the environment.
“Illegal sand and gravel mining in Oniipa town, Oniipa constituency and Oshikoto region at large is causing destruction to the environment, distressing our communities, and destabilising peace in the region. Thus, we as a peace-loving community expected urgency from the honourable minister Pohamba Shifeta to attend to this appeal and help us reclaim peace in Ondando and nearby villages,” reads a statement jointly issued by AR and the community.
“We would like to indicate that this postponement shows disrespect to us Ondando community and all interested and affected parties. After many community members took leave of absence from their employers, travelled long distances, incurred legal costs to attend the appeal hearing, the minister through his appeals secretary called off the meeting at the eleventh hour. No valid reasons were provided except that Ondonga Traditionary Authority is not available.
Is OTA one person or an institution made of people? We would like to register our unhappiness, and we are questioning whether this is a real genuine process to give us justice in the end.”
Attempts to get a comment from the OTA were unsuccessful. Shifeta’s mobile phone was also unreachable.