THE environment ministry has rejected claims by the Uukwambi Traditional Authority that it is responsible for the uncoordinated sand mining activities at the Iiheke ya Nakale and Onanime villages.
Nampa recently reported that chief Herman Iipumbu of the Uukwambi Traditional Authority in the Omusati region said he was not to blame for the illegal sand extraction at the two villages, which fall under his jurisdiction.
The chief reportedly blamed the ministry of environment for issuing an environmental clearance certificate for sand mining at the two sites.
In response to the accusations, the ministry's spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said the clearance certificates in question were only issued after the traditional authority had applied for them.
The ministry issued the certificates in question to the traditional authority in December last year.
However, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta suspended the certificates in March until the traditional authority, sand miners and affected community members consulted one another and decided on how they would share the profits derived from the activity.
The move followed a petition by the community members near the two sites to the ministry to suspend sand mining on the grounds that they were not properly consulted before the activities commenced.
Muyunda further stated that if the environmental clearance certificate was issued on the basis of misleading information by the applicant, the environmental commissioner will not hesitate to cancel it.
He added that the person who provided the misleading information can be criminally liable.
"On this basis, we reject the insulation that the ministry should be held liable for the uncoordinated sand mining activities taking place in the Uukwambi area. We urge all interested parties to resolve the misunderstandings amicably without passing the blame onto the ministry," he said.
Contacted for comment by The Namibian this week, Iipumbu made an about-turn, saying he never blamed the ministry for the illegal sand extraction, and that he was misquoted by the media.
"The ministry has stopped the sand mining activities at the two sites, and there is no problem about this as the ministry did what they think is right for the community. I never blamed the ministry for anything," he said.