02 Oct 2013 08:00
SINZOGORO, 02 OCT (NAMPA) - Villagers in the Sinzogoro area are attempting to get a construction company mining sand along the banks of the Okavango River to cease its activities, because they do not derive any benefits from this practice.
The locals are also complaining that the uncontrolled extracting of sand and gravel in the area has destroyed the local fauna and flora, while the area has been left scarred with big open pits which pose a danger to people and animals alike.
The sand is, amongst other things, used for road construction and brickmaking in the Kavango East and West regions.
Sizongoro is situated some 30 kilometres west of Rundu.
The Sinzogoro villagers, backed by their headman Clemence Makamba, are targeting the Armstrong Construction company, which was permitted by the Mbunza Traditional Authority to mine sand from an area along the Okavango River.
They have mobilised themselves, and instructed the company to stop the mining of sand forthwith. Should the company fail to heed their demands, they will take unspecified action.
The disgruntled villagers and their Village Development Committee also held a meeting at Sinzogoro on Tuesday afternoon, where they resolved that no tipper-truck should be allowed to mine sand within their area as from Wednesday this week.
One of the disgruntled villagers told Nampa today that they have employed five men to monitor and stop any truck attempting to mine sand from the village.
Approached for comment, the secretary of the Mbunza Traditional Authority, Dagobert Mukoya, told this reporter on Wednesday that the authority permitted Armstrong Construction to mine sand in exchange for royalty payments to the traditional authority.
Mukoya dismissed claims that villagers did not derive any benefits from the practice, saying the said villagers have on several occasions been urged to organise themselves and open a Village Development Committee bank account, into which money would be paid to uplift themselves, but to no avail.
The money currently goes into the traditional authority's coffers.
He furthermore claimed that the villagers are just being used and instigated by a disgruntled faction within the area, being people who were suspended from serving in the Mbunza Traditional Authoritys Chiefs Council by Chief Alfons Kaundu after they were found guilty of disobeying the traditional authority.
The Mbunza authority secretary thus advised the concerned community members to always approach the traditional authority whenever they have grievances, instead of rushing to the media, which according to him, creates unnecessary tension amongst the chiefs subjects.
Contacted for comment, the co-owner of Armstrong Construction, Docky Olavi, said after only learning about the claims from this reporter that they pay an annual fee to the traditional authority, and will not stop mining sand.
If the villagers have grievances, they should call a meeting with the traditional authority, he charged, adding that they will not entertain the villagers demands.
Olavi further stated that they indeed do rehabilitate the area after mining.