3 July 2018

Namibia: Mining Underway At Okongava As Dispute Rages On

Mineral exploration and prospecting are taking place on farm Okongava, the farm at the centre of a resettlement dispute and claims of high-level corruption, situated about 10 kilometres outside Karibib.

Farm Okongava came to public attention two weeks ago when Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Vipuakuje Muharukua alleged that it was corruptly allocated to a relative of land reform minister Utoni Nujoma to conduct mining activities.

Muharukua claimed that the farm had earlier been allocated to the adjacent community by former land reform minister Alpheus !Naruseb and the Otjimbingwe Traditional Authority for the purpose of expanding their communal area.

Muharukua said after Nujoma became land reform minister, he discovered that there were minerals on the farm, and revoked !Naruseb's decision.

The Namibian last week visited the disputed farm, and observed that a company called Desert Lion Energy was conducting exploration and mining activities on the farm.

The company is owned by Canadian national Tim Johnston, with Thomas Mushimba as the local partner. Heavy trucks and large earthmoving equipment were operating on the farm, digging trenches and being involved in construction.

Small-scale farmers occupying some camps on the farm said on condition of anonymity that they were "worried" about the impact of the mining activities there.

They said the company had destroyed some structures on the farm such as a fence, gates and cattle pens, to construct roads to the mining area.

These structures have not been replaced.

The farmers added that they were uncertain about their health and that of their livestock, which they claimed has been put under pressure by the exploration activities, which include blasting at the site.

"They removed the main gate and all the cattle grids with promises that they will put them back. Nothing has been put back, so the farm is currently open to anybody," lamented one local farmer.

"They have also destroyed our grazing land on the farm, and we cannot control our livestock any more since the fence has been removed," said the farmer.

"Our livestock is roaming the busy road. They must put back the cattle grids, or fence off the entire road to the mine," the farmer continued.

Thomas Mushimba last week told The Namibian that the land was not given to him, but that they have an exclusive prospecting licence (EPL) over the farm, which allows his company to conduct exploration while waiting for the mining licence.

"We are not involved in the farmland disputes. We only have an EPL that allows us to do our exploration on the land. If they are saying that we got the land, it is not true. I did not receive the land," he stated.

"They must sort that out with the government and the ministry responsible. It does not mean that the land belongs to Desert Lion Energy, it is still state land. As far as I know, the farm has not been given to the legally identified owners yet," he said.

Mushimba added that his company was willing to compensate the legal owners of the land, but at present there was no legal owner.

"If there is anybody saying they are the rightful owners of the farm, they are not telling the truth because the resettlement programme has not been finalised," he said.

Land reform minister Nujoma last week denied Muharukua's claims, saying that the farm still belonged to the state, and that those occupying it were doing so illegally.

Nujoma said his ministry was in the process of evicting illegal farmers on the land, and "others who were conducting small-scale mining activities and temporarily grazing their livestock there".

The minister added that this would allow them to allocate subdivided farms to the "successfully" identified farmers who applied through the resettlement programme.


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