3 July 2013

Namibia: Dispute Over Quarry in Naukluft Heats Up

Windhoek — A tug of war is brewing between the Namibia Construction Company and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism over the shutting down of an illegal quarry in the Namib Naukluft Park. Namibia Construction has refused to cease operations claiming it complies with proper procedures. Yesterday the environment commissioner said it would consider means to evict the company from the site.

Environment and Tourism Minister Uahekua Herunga last week asked that the company's operations be shut down, and that it "ensures that proper procedures are followed before they can resume operations".

The managing director of Namibia Construction, Hans-Pieter Schulz, yesterday declined to make any formal statement when approached for comment on whether they intend to comply with the minister's order. "We do not want to discuss the issue in the press. We will meet the ministry this week and take up the matter, okay?" was all he said.

Teofilius Nghitila, the Namibia Environmental Commissioner, when approached for comment, hinted at involving law enforcement agencies.

"I am going to call the Director of Parks [Colgar Sikopo] - then we will take a natural course of action, and that is by going to the police. The instructions were clear for them [Namibia Construction] to vacate the park based on the fact that the quarry does not belong to them. If the owner of the house, in this case the State, says get out of my house and you refuse, then we will go to the police to remove you," he said.

Environment ministry staff who have been monitoring the quarry since the order for the closure last week, said they visited the site and found company staff still at work in the quarry. "These guys are still operating. They are disrespecting our leaders and the Namibian laws," fumed one of the ministry's investigators.

Namibia Construction has been quarrying stones in the park since 1993. The company says it has a lease agreement to the quarry from Herma Brothers, the previous company that started the quarry many years before independence - an agreement that dates back to the 1980s. The company had said the agreement stipulates that royalties of N$1 per cubic metre quarried be paid to the State.

An investigation by the ministry has however revealed that the company did not have an agreement with the ministry, and that the operations are in violation of several laws that guide operations in national parks. It has also come to light that the company has not been paying royalties. "They have been operating illegally since 1993 and they have also not paid any royalties to the State as per the agreed amount," Herunga said last week.

The ministry's other bone of contention now is the fact that Herma Brothers leases the quarry to Namibia Construction, contrary to the agreement that stipulates that the quarry belongs to the State and no individual may buy or lease the quarry to a third party without the approval of Cabinet.

Namibia Construction is also being blamed for setting up a kerbstone manufacturing plant at the quarry in the park, contrary to the agreement. Kerbstone produces the stones for the construction industry. The other violation is with the setting up of permanent structures for employees, contrary to park regulations that prohibit illegal overnighting in the park, other than to overnight at official camping sites.

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