Villagers say no to sand-mining in their area

18 Feb 2014 15:10pm
SINZOGORO, 18 FEB (NAMPA) - Villagers from the Sinzogoro and Ruuga areas in the Kavango West Region say they do not want construction companies to harvest sand for industrial purposes here any longer.
These villages are situated some 30 kilometres west of Rundu.
The villagers say their environment has been damaged, as most of the companies which extracted sand in their areas never bothered to rehabilitate the land, despite having been requested to do so.
The situation has left big pieces of land scarred with open pits, and also destroyed the fauna and flora here.
Several concerned villagers told Nampa on Tuesday on condition of anonymity that they resolved in meetings held late last year to suspend the harvesting of sand for business purposes in their two respective areas until further notice.
In October last year, the villagers halted a construction company from mining sand along the banks of the Okavango River, and their instructions remain in force.
Armstrong Construction, a company from Rundu, succumbed to villagers’ demands to cease their activities in October last year as the villagers claimed that they do not derive any benefits from that practice.
The secretary of the Mbunza Traditional Authority, Dagobert Mukoya told Nampa that sand-harvesting in the two areas remains halted, but the traditional authority will convene a meeting this weekend to discuss all land issues in the Mbunza area.
Dagobert said the ongoing sand-mining squabbles between the locals and the construction company will also be discussed during Saturday’s meeting.
The long-awaited meeting was supposed to be held late last year, but did not take place then.
The Mbunza Traditional Authority’s secretary earlier said the construction company was permitted by the traditional authority to excavate sand from the area.
The villagers earlier also demanded that the construction company first rehabilitates the land, and only then would they decide whether to allow the company to continue with their sand-mining in the area or not.
The sand is, amongst others, used for road construction and brickmaking in the Kavango East and West Regions.
Mukoya earlier defended Armstrong Construction, saying they make annual royalty payments of N.dollars 50 000 to the traditional authority in exchange for sand from the area, and that villagers have on several occasions been urged to organise themselves and open a Village Development Committee bank account into which money could be paid for their use.
These pleas have, however, gone unheeded, and the money currently goes into the traditional authority's coffers.
Mukoya further claimed that the villagers are just being used and instigated by a disgruntled faction within the area, who he said are people who were suspended from serving in the Mbunza Traditional Authority’s Chiefs’ Council by Chief Alfons Kaundu after they were found guilty of disobeying the traditional authority.
Armstrong Construction co-owner Docky Olavi said late last year that the halting of sand-mining had negatively affected their operations as they are unable to deliver sand to their clients, who need it for construction purposes.
Olavi stated that production has been slow, and they have resorted to harvesting soft sand instead of the normal rough sand, something which has affected the quality of the bricks they manufacture.