14 Nov 2013 13:50pm
SINZOGORO, 14 NOV (NAMPA) - Sand mining activities at the Sinzogoro and Ruuga villages situated some 30 kilometres west of Rundu have been halted for over a month now.
A local building company was prevented by villagers there from mining sand along the banks of the Okavango River on 08 October this year.
The Armstrong Construction company from Rundu succumbed to villagers demands to temporarily cease their activities last month as the villagers claim that they do not derive any benefit from this practice.
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.
The secretary of the Mbunza Traditional Authority, Dagobert Mukoya confirmed to Nampa on Tuesday that mining activities are at a standstill, but stated that the traditional authority will set up a meeting at a date yet to be announced between the villagers who blocked the activity and the company to discuss the issue.
The Mbunza Traditional Authority secretary earlier said the construction company was permitted by the traditional authority to excavate sand from the area.
The villagers earlier demanded that the construction company should first rehabilitate the land, 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.
Mukoya said Armstrong Construction makes 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 Authoritys Chiefs Council by Chief Alfons Kaundu after they were found guilty of disobeying the traditional authority.
Approached for comment on Thursday on how the matter has affected the business, Armstrong Construction co-owner Docky Olavi said it has 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.
He said some three weeks ago, they held a meeting with Kaundu where they signed a formal agreement with the traditional authority for the payment of the N.dollars 50 000 annual fee, which will be channelled to the village where the sand is mined from.
Despite the company already paying the annual fee, this was just done on the basis of a verbal agreement.
The company is now waiting for the traditional authority to convene a meeting with the villagers to inform them about the agreement which was signed, as well as the benefits they will be deriving from the resources.