Villagers block sand-mining at Rundu

08 Oct 2013 08:10am
SINZOGORO, 08 OCT (NAMPA) - A local building company was blocked by villagers from mining sand along the banks of the Okavango River on Thursday.
The Armstrong Construction company last Thursday succumbed to villagers’ demands to temporarily cease their activities because they claim not to derive any benefit from this practice at the Sinzogoro village, situated some 30 kilometres west of Rundu.
The locals complained that the uncontrolled extracting of sand and gravel in the area has also 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.
They demanded that the construction company rehabilitates the land first, and only then will they decide whether to allow the company to continue with their sand mining in the area or not.
The sand is, amongst other things, used for road construction and brick-making in the Kavango East and West regions.
On Thursday, villagers flocked to the area where sand is being excavated, and instructed the tipper-truck drivers to stop their operations.
However, the Armstrong employees and owners Docky Olavi and Mathew Hungamo apparently refused to heed these calls until they received a written letter to that effect from the Mbunza Traditional Authority, which had permitted them to harvest sand in the first place.
The two parties only resolved the issue after about three hours of verbal and almost physical attacks, and decided that a meeting be convened with the Traditional Authority to iron out the issue.
The company owners also assured the villagers that the areas where sand was mined will be rehabilitated, as per their company policy.
The secretary of the Mbunza Traditional Authority, Dagobert Mukoya, condemned the villagers’ action of stopping work at the sand mines, saying the company was permitted by the Traditional Authority to mine sand in that area.
The Mbunza secretary explained that although he understands the villagers’ concern of not benefitting from the natural resources extracted from their area, they had no right to stop the company from its activities.
Mukoya earlier said the Armstrong Construction company makes annual royalty payments of N.dollars 50 000 to the traditional authority in exchange for sand from the area.
He told Nampa that 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.
Mukoya further 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 Authority’s Chiefs’ Council by Chief Alfons Kaundu after they were found guilty of disobeying the Traditional Authority.