Namibia: Community Blocks Sand Miners

RESIDENTS of Ondando village in Oshikoto region on Sunday blocked a gravel road leading to a sandpit where Ondangwa business persons extract sand for sale.

The blockade was to stop the businessmen who include Ondangwa mayor Paavo Amwele, from extracting sand from the pit.

Other well-known business persons who mine sand from the pit are headman Petrus Shambo, Otto Shikomba of Oniimboto Trading and D Nangolo.

Shambo said they sell the sand to a brick making company Henning Crusher, Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital and to Andimba Toivo ya Toivo Secondary School in Ondangwa where classrooms are being constructed.

However, Amwele told The Namibian yesterday that he takes the sand to his house from where he sells it to those who want it. He refused to comment on the closure of the road referring questions to the Ondonga Traditional Authority.

According to the community, the sand miners have destroyed the environment and exposed underground water.

Community activist Jesaya Nambundunga said the sand miners have even destroyed the fence they have put up around the pit. They are now mining outside their own fence, he said.

"Where is their destruction going to end? Is it not at the neighbour's fence which is just about five paces from their fence?

"They don't care about the community or the damage to the environment. For them it is just to line their pockets," he said.

He added that the gravel road was put up without the consent of the Road Authority whose mandate is to construct and maintain Namibian roads.

"Since the establishment of this illegal gravel road [in April this year] we have seen increased movement of cars day and night. Our goats are being stolen from the kraals at night.

"We don't want this kind of illegal activity within our community. We must preserve our environment and the law has to be observed. We are closing this illegal road until further notice," Nambundunga said.

Shambo yesterday said the road was blocked by individuals without the consent of the community. He said the materials used to block the road will be taken to the office of the Ondonga Traditional Authority.

Oniipa Town Council technical, planning and community services officer Ndapewa Ndakunda admitted in an e-mail on 5 May this year that council did not grant sand miners permission to put up a gravel road.

Ndakunda also said the council was consulted during the environmental impact assessment and only managed to stop the sand mining for two days.

Amweele told The Namibian last week that he bought the site where the sand is being mined and donated it to Ondonga Traditional Authority.

He said the previous owner had offered to sell him the mahangu field, saying it was no longer fertile and produced poor crops.

In June last year Ondonga Traditional Authority's senior traditional councillor for Epale district Anelli Sakaria, called for a meeting for residents of Ondando village.

The villagers told The Namibian in January this year that they were made to believe the meeting was to discuss the construction of a kindergarten and police station in the area.

Two months later, they learnt their attendance was used to approve the sand mining. Residents said during the meeting, they were told to write down their names and cellphone numbers.

"They did not tell us why we should write down our names ... They did not discuss anything about sand mining, and we did not give consent to it," residents told The Namibian.

The residents petitioned environment minister Pohamba Shifeta in October last year asking him to revoke the environmental clearance certificate. The villagers also asked that the list as proof of community consent be "declared false".

Villagers fear that if the ministry allows sand mining to continue, they will end up with a number of open sandpits, no pastures for livestock, and no fields to grow crops.They also fear children would drown in the sandpits.

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