Nandi-Ndaitwah asked to stop Shifeta’s desert deal

… Community demands immediate solution

The Maltahöhe community is pleading with vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah to stop minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta’s desert tourism deal with a private company.

The community has sent Nandi-Ndaitwah an urgent letter, asking her to suspend Shifeta’s decision to grant the company a 25-year contract to transport tourists into the Namib desert.

The letter, dated 15 April, was written by community representative Benno Isaaks.

He criticised Shifeta’s decision to grant the deal to an outfit owned by Heiko Dorgeloh.

Isaaks requested Nandi-Ndaitwah to investigate the matter, saying the community was not consulted, and demanded that the contract be cancelled.

“We as a group of very concerned inhabitants of the Hardap region, and in particular the Witbooi traditional area, write this letter to you as a former minister of environment and tourism, who is knowledgeable about the purpose and objects of concessions awarded in this area.

“Recently, it has come to our attention that there are several concessions awarded in the Namib Naukluft Park area with irregularities and without the needed transparency, sidelining the area’s inhabitants.

Pohamba Shifeta

“The consequence of such decisions by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism has the potential not only to meet the objectives of awarding such concessions, but will lead to mass unemployment to the disadvantage of local communities and employees of Namibia Wildlife Resorts across the country,” Isaaks wrote.

Shifeta awarded a concession to About AfricaCo, trading as About Adelt Sossusvlei Management, which is set to gain a minimum of around N$250 million in 25 years to guide travellers in the renowned Sossusvlei area.

The concession will also give the company the right to operate a campsite, conduct guided hiking trails, and develop and operate a kiosk in the area.

“We request the vice president to investigate the above matter, an investigation of the role played by all officials dealing with concessions from junior to senior staff within the ministry.

“Suspending all activities regarding these allegations pending the conclusion of the investigations, ensuring that the principle of empowering previously disadvantaged communities holds within any agreement done within the Namib Naukluft Park, and consultations with local communities to ensure that they understand the intention and implications of such agreements before any signing,” he wrote.

“There are two specific concessions awarded that request your urgent intervention and potential suspension of activities for these two concessions, as you did in September 2010 for the Namab concession.

“This was based on a decision that several conditions of awarding concessions were breached and did not meet your specific conditions set in the agreements. The actions taken in awarding or transferring the rights of local people were not consistent with the objects of original agreements,” Isaaks added.

Nandi-Ndaitwah this week told The Namibian she would respond to the community’s enquiry.

“This letter has not yet reached our office. However, the vice president has looked at the letter and will respond to Mr Isaaks in due course,” she said.

Regarding the allegations made by Isaaks, Shifeta last week said he was informed he is an aggrieved member.

“The Hardap governor informed me that he [Isaaks] is disgruntled because he wanted to be a trustee of the concessions, but he failed, now he is rebellious. You may get more information from the Hardap governor,” he said.

Hardap governor Salomon April last week denied allegations of a lack of consultation.

He said Isaaks is “not relevant to the matter”.

“He is a non-factor . . . and he chose not to participate, so he should not come and complain that the community was not involved.

“The concession is an initiative from myself and the two communities together,” he said.

April said the project is community driven.

“Many people in the community are going to benefit from jobs,” he said.

The state-controlled NWR will lose N$175 million as a result of this concession.

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