19 June 2017

Namibia: Land Dispute Brewing At Usakos

The Usakos municipality has been accused of selling land it did not own twice.

Riwayn Doëseb, trading as Prodigy HR Solutions, is a young entrepreneur who wanted to invest N$15 million in building a shopping complex, service station and truck port at the Hakhaseb township's turn-off on a parcel of unserviced townland (plot no. 93) measuring 14,5 hectares.

He submitted a proposal to the Usakos municipality in 2009, and received approval to buy a one hectare corner stand for N$700 000 at N$70/m2 in 2013.

Doëseb said he hired a surveyor since he was considering applying for an adjacent plot and the surveyor discovered that the 14,5ha piece of land from which he had been allocated a hectare did not belong to the municipality.

The surveyor wrote to the council in 2015, pointing out that the land was registered under Usakos Kalkwerke (Pty) Ltd in 1971, and that the council could not sell the land until the ownership issue was resolved.

"As I waited for this issue to be resolved, I heard that council was already negotiating with Woermann Brock (WB) for the same piece of land," Doëseb said.

The budding entrepreneur then learnt that government had bought the land from Usakos Kalkwerke on behalf of the Usakos council. But instead of informing him, the council offered the corner stand Doëseb had been allocated (and the adjacent hectare he wanted) to Woermann Brock (Swakopmund) for N$400 000 at N$40/m2.

When Doëseb approached the council to clarify the issue, he was advised to negotiate with Woermann Brock, which he did.

Doëseb received a letter from Woermann Brock (Windhoek), stating that the company "might be interested in renting a shop" in his new development.

Doëseb submitted the letter to the council in May this year, and was told the matter would be discussed.

But while he was waiting for feedback, two advertisements appeared in two newspapers, the latest on 6 June, stating the Usakos municipality's intention to sell the two hectares to Woermann Brock.

Doëseb subsequently submitted objections to the sale.

"It was agreed that once council resolved the land issue with Usakos Kalkwerke, we will get another resolution, and commence with the implementation of the project as the delay was from the council's side, and not the investors. I trust council will adhere to our objection, and stop the sale until this issue is resolved because the land was already issued to us in principle," Doëseb wrote in his objection.

He now suspects that he was being unfairly sidelined by the Usakos council, placing his project in jeopardy.

Approached for comment, Ingo Woermann of Woermann Brock (Swakopmund) said the company was not aware of the controversy.

"It is our policy to do business within the legal framework as we have been conducting business in Namibia for decades, and have interests throughout the country," he said, declining to comment further.

Usakos chief executive Gruzi ≠Goseb said he was aware of Doëseb's application, and the council's initial approval of his project.

However, he said that he had been suspended for one-and-a-half years, and during that time, the council negotiated with Woermann Brock over the land.

"I knew the municipality did not own the land, but when I came back, it had been transferred back into its ownership. I am otherwise not aware of the sale to Woermann Brock, neither of the advertisements," he said, directing further questions to the municipality's finance manager, Reinhold Evenson.

Evenson acknowledged Doëseb's application, but said council's approval was not for a specific piece of the land. Doëseb had to measure out the land he wanted.

"We did not receive any map from him for the specific hectare he wanted, that is why we entered into negotiations with WB," Evenson said.

Doëseb, however, denies this, saying the council received a map of the land from his surveyors.

Evenson added that Doëseb was not supposed to submit a letter from Woermann Brock (Windhoek), but from Woermann Brock (Swakopmund) because these were two different companies.

"We told [Doëseb] that. He cannot get a letter from someone who did not apply, which in this case is the Windhoek company," he stated.

He added that the advertisements for the sale of the land were submitted to the CEO, and he could therefore not understand why ≠Goseb was claiming that he had not seen them.

"We will consider the objections before sending them to the minister. It is an important development, so I do not think the minister will have any problem with it proceeding," Evenson noted.

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