Articles on this Page
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Too many questions
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Feather in the cap ...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Biomass expo bigges...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _MPs get mixed repor...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _FMD outbreak in Zam...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Agriculture centre ...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _After 400 years, sl...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Housing playing sec...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Through the lenses ...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Hepatitis ravages N...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Namibians among the...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Phosphate decision ...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _SACU-EU dispute ruf...
- 08/13/19--16:00: _Housing 'crisis' te...
- 08/14/19--07:19: _More relief for pen...
- 08/14/19--16:00: _Royal mess
- 08/14/19--16:00: _Namibia up against ...
- 08/14/19--16:00: _City officially qui...
- 08/14/19--16:00: _Govt urged to act o...
- 08/14/19--16:00: _More must be done -...
- 08/13/19--16:00: Too many questions
- 08/13/19--16:00: Feather in the cap for Namibia's Judiciary
- 08/13/19--16:00: Biomass expo biggest yet
- 08/13/19--16:00: MPs get mixed reports on logging
- 08/13/19--16:00: FMD outbreak in Zambezi
- 08/13/19--16:00: Agriculture centre in limbo
- 08/13/19--16:00: After 400 years, slavery remains scourge
- 08/13/19--16:00: Housing playing second fiddle
- 08/13/19--16:00: Through the lenses of pension funds
- 08/13/19--16:00: Hepatitis ravages Namibia's poorest
- 08/13/19--16:00: Namibians among the heaviest smokers in Africa
- 08/13/19--16:00: Phosphate decision coming
- 08/13/19--16:00: SACU-EU dispute ruffles feathers
- 08/13/19--16:00: Housing 'crisis' tests Saudi reform drive
- 08/14/19--07:19: More relief for pensioners
- 08/14/19--16:00: Royal mess
- 08/14/19--16:00: Namibia up against SA, Egypt
- 08/14/19--16:00: City officially quits Alan
- 08/14/19--16:00: Govt urged to act on farmworkers
- 08/14/19--16:00: More must be done - Nandi-Ndaitwah
Moreover, Van Wyk is the first Namibian and first woman to hold this position in IACA.
“Van Wyk's prestigious appointment comes at a time when judicial administration on the continent is in dire need of reform, such that will ensure a system of efficient and effective administration of justice, not only in Namibia, but in SADC and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole,” Ockert Jansen of the Office of the Judiciary said of her accomplishment.
Chief Justice Peter Shivute congratulated Van Wyk, adding that her achievement underscored the goal of Namibia's judiciary to become a “model judiciary” in Africa.
“The appointment of Mrs Van Wyk to this international body is evident of the remarkable work she has done for our judicial administration and the confidence within the region and the international community in her abilities as a leader. We rally behind her success and wish her the best,” Shivute said.
The mandate of IACA is to promote professional court administration and management in emerging democracies and to serve as a resource for judges, court administrators and other government officials as a measure to evaluate and improve court and justice systems.
Van Wyk is not a newcomer to judicial administration. Since 1999 she had served as a prosecutor and then moved up the ranks to deputy prosecutor-general from 2006 to 2015.
In June 2015 she took up the position of deputy permanent secretary in the justice ministry, a position she held until her promotion to permanent secretary entrusted to head the newly established and independent Office of the Judiciary in January 2016.
In 2017 Van Wyk was instrumental in the establishment of the Southern African Judicial Administrators Association (SAJAA).
She is an admitted legal practitioner of the High Court of Namibia and has represented the State in major cases in the lower, high and supreme courts.
She holds a B Proc degree from the University of the Orange Free State in South Africa, and has 20 years of professional experience.
“I am extremely humbled by this appointment and I look forward to sharing Namibia's successes while learning from other judiciaries in order to effect better administration within the region, but also on the continent as a whole,” Van Wyk said shortly after the announcement of her appointment.
In her new role Van Wyk is tasked with promoting membership and networking within African judiciaries, as well as recruiting and appointing board members.
The Biomass Technology Expo (BTE) which was held on Friday at the Otjiwa Lodge near Otjiwarongo turned out to be biggest biomass day Namibia has ever seen.
More than 120 exhibitors showed their new technology, reached out to potential customers and exchanged ideas. With 1 400 visitors, the BTE has claimed its place among Namibia’s most vibrant business shows.
“The event links buyers to sellers, experts to laymen, and Namibia to the rest of the world. BTE develops new ways of thinking about our vast biomass resource and how it can be fully explored. The technology at the heart of this expo provides the means to unlock the true value of this resource. We are on the right path to something meaningful,” said Ned Sibeya, deputy chief of the National Planning Commission.
Standard Bank CEO, Vetumbuavi Mungunda, also hailed the expo, saying it helps to develop technologies that can be applied for better use of rangeland and farm productivity.
Since farming is the main source of livelihood for over 60 to 70% of Namibians, Mungunda said it was important to strengthen and increase the productivity of farmland, which could lead to improved livelihoods, and reduction of poverty in rural areas.
Standard Bank was the main sponsor of the expo.
“As Standard Bank we also believe that, as a financier, it is important to engage clients in our communities, and in our country, with regard to the whole value chain, to understand their needs, to understand their requirements and also what can be done to improve the production across the whole value chain.”
In view of the debilitating drought situation in the country, Mungunda said it was pleasing to note that some farmers have branched into other productive avenues such as charcoal harvesting.
“The diversification from livestock farming helps farming communities not only to deal with the drought that we are experiencing but also to generate additional income for themselves and for the country.”
Mungunda also welcomed recent policy announcements by government regarding the registration of bush feed (also known as bush fodder or boskos) as animal feed and harvesting of charcoal in communal areas.
He said the registration of bush feed as animal fodder will allow for further investments, innovation and research into the product which could in future substitute the importation of animal fodder from other countries. He said if research goes to the extent where bush feed becomes competitive it can also be exported to other countries and thus generate much-needed foreign currency.
On the harvesting of charcoal in communal areas, Mungunda said it will also provide income generating opportunities and relief for farmers who are severely affected by the current drought.
“These policy announcements help to stimulate new interests, new investments and new research,” he said.
The expo kicked off on Friday with the 4th annual Ggneral meeting of the Namibia Charcoal Association (NCA). Charcoal production is booming and the sector is committed to growing the industry. A new good practices booklet was launched with guidelines covering harvesting, production, aftercare, health and safety measures and more.
“It was a day full of good news”, says Michael Degé, NCA manager.
According to Werner Berg from DHG, who exports Namibian charcoal to Germany, they are ready to upscale considerably.
“We will increase production capacity from 18 000 to 45 000 tonnes - starting immediately.
In the communal areas, NCA will launch pilot projects together with the Directorate of Forestry and the De-bushing Advisory Service to foster charcoal production there.
The NCA also commended the Forest Stewardship Council representative, Manushka Moodley, for the excellent work she has done in Namibia.
“The Namibian FSC standard is formalised and that is an enormous milestone for our country. The guidelines are now specifically adapted to the Namibian bush and environment. This will make it much easier for farmers to achieve FSC certification,” Degé explained.
The BTE was organised by the Namibia Biomass Industry Group (NBIG).
“We are very happy with the massive turnout. Namibians are definitely realising the biomass opportunity. We were somewhat surprised by the huge international interest but that, of course, shows the great business potential Namibian biomass has to offer,” said Colin Lindeque, General Manager of NBIG.
Exhibitors travelled thousands of kilometres to Otjiwa – from South Africa, Germany, Austria, Denmark, the UK and the USA.
Eight of its 16 members visited the Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West areas last week to assess the impact of timber harvesting and exporting, and met with traditional chiefs and various ministries and farmers.
The chairperson of the committee, Sophia Swartz-Fischer, yesterday said more meetings would be held with stakeholders in Windhoek.
Thereafter, a public document will be drawn up and the two most affected ministries – the ministry of environment and tourism and the ministry of agriculture, water and forestry – will have to come up with a common understanding on the management of the country's small forest area.
“We need a plan for the future. We need order and guidelines. We know that deforestation leads to climate change. Namibia is a semi-desert country. Mother Nature will take revenge if we do not act quickly,” Swartz-Fischer said.
Swartz-Fischer said in Zambezi the committee was provided with a list of farmers who had been issued harvesting permits and environmental clearance certificates.
She said the committee visited the Katima Farm and the Liselo irrigation project in the Zambezi Region, where a de-bushing tender had been issued and harvesting licences issued.
Swartz-Fischer said Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu's office acknowledged that there had been uncontrolled harvesting without permits.
The Uukwangali traditional authority under Hompa Eugene Siwombe felt that the agriculture ministry should liaise with the traditional authority before issuing any timber harvesting licences so that the authority could first ascertain whether prospective loggers had a right to the natural resources in the communal area.
Hompa Alfons Kaundu of the Mbunza traditional authority told the committee of reported cases where up to three or four people used the same harvesting permit.
It is not clear whether any of these incidents were reported to the relevant authorities, but Swartz-Fischer said there seemed to be “no order” in this region as far as timber harvesting was concerned.
“Harvesting seems out of control,” Swartz-Fischer commented.
The Mbunza authority has similarly requested that the agriculture ministry only issue harvesting permits through the traditional offices that know the areas and can establish whistle-blowers on the ground.
Kavango East governor Samuel Mbambo felt that the timber harvesting issue in that region has been blown out of proportion by the media and other stakeholders.
Mbambo reportedly informed the committee that he had given permission to small-scale farmers to log trees in order to develop land for which they had secured 99-year leaseholds.
Swartz-Fischer said the Kavango East Farmers Union (Kerfu) indicated that farmers have in the meantime paid N$300 for environmental clearance certificates that have yet to be issued.
The environment ministry earlier this year said with the exception of two cases – Liselo and Katima Farm - all other commercial timber harvesting in the three northern regions was being done without the requisite clearance certificates.
According to report jointly drawn up by the environment and agriculture ministries in April, 390 timber harvesting licences in Kavango East and 42 in Kavango West had been issued without clearance certificates.
Agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb said later in parliament that a misunderstanding of the relevant laws had resulted in the illegal harvesting.
!Naruseb said his ministry was not clear whether the harvesting or the clearance certificates came first.
Since the suspension of harvesting licences in November last year, 231 new applications for harvesting permits have been received. All of them were rejected.
Despite the suspension of the harvesting permits, Swartz-Fischer said there still remained large stockpiles of timber on some farms. She said farmers had requested permission from the government to sell these at local auctions. Alternatively, they asked permission for exporting the timber.
This was confirmed by the acting chief veterinary officer in the agriculture ministry, Albertina Musilika-Shilongo.
Sigwe village is located in the Kabbe North constituency and lies in the eastern floodplains of the Zambezi Region, about 90 km east of Katima Mulilo.
According to Musilika-Shilongo officials of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) in the Zambezi Region were notified by farmers on 8 August that some of their animals were limping, salivating and not grazing.
“Clinical inspection of cattle was done and samples for laboratory analysis were taken. FMD was subsequently confirmed by the central laboratory in Windhoek on 11 August.”
According to Musilika-Shilongo the DVS investigation found that two kraals at Sigwe village were infected with FMD. About 50 of the 106 cattle showed signs of FMD infection. The population of cattle considered to be at risk of FMD infection is about 4 000.
The disease is suspected to have been transmitted to the cattle from African buffalo, which are known carriers of the virus that causes FMD.
Musilika-Shilongo said control measures were put in place immediately, including the movement ban. Movement restrictions of other potentially infectious commodities out of the Zambezi Region such as hides, skins, game trophies, grass and plant materials have also been imposed until further notice.
A number of roadblocks will be set up at strategic points and the public is urged to cooperate with veterinary and police officials.
Surveillance teams have been deployed in the region to establish the extent of the outbreak and farmers are requested to present their livestock for inspection.
“Immediate re-vaccination of all cattle at risk using a trivalent purified FMD vaccine will be conducted and all farmers are strongly urged to bring their cattle for vaccination to the designated crush pens,” said Musilika-Shilongo.
All previously issued permits into and out of the Zambezi Region have been cancelled and recalled, she said.
FMD is a viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals and is found is all excretions of infected animals. These animals breathe out a large amount of aerosolised virus which can infect other animals via respiratory or oral routes. The virus may be present in milk, semen, urine and dung. FMD is not readily transmissible to humans and is not a public health risk.
FMD clinical signs include salivation, limping, reluctance to move, fever, blisters and ulcers on the tongue, gum and on the hooves.
The disease can spread through infected animals newly introduced into a herd, contaminated transport vehicles, contaminated materials such as hay, feed, water, milk or biologics.
It can also spread through contaminated clothing, footwear or equipment, virus-infected meat or other contaminated animal products and animals that have recovered from the infection may sometime carry the virus and initiate new outbreaks.
The first ATC was established at Rundu. It is responsible for the assembly, repair and maintenance of agricultural machinery and equipment belonging to the government.
The centre also conducts scientific research and development for Green Scheme irrigation projects.
Agribusdev, the government's agricultural funding agency, is in charge of the Rundu ATC's extension and engineering services in liaison with the directorate of agricultural production.
After this centre opened in 2015, the agriculture ministry decided to establish a similar centre at Ongwediva, in the Oshana Region.
The ministry's executive director, Percy Misika, told Namibian Sun that the ministry recently completed the Ongwediva ATC, which cost N$72 886 165 for construction and equipping.
“The Ongwediva ATC has been completed and handed over to [the ministry] in June 2019. It will be operationalised in the 2019/20 financial year,” Misika said.
“The centre renders services to the general public and the Green Scheme irrigation projects through the servicing and repairing of trucks, tractors, combine harvesters, earthmoving and small vehicles, as well as irrigation equipment and infrastructure.”
Because of the technology embedded in modern agricultural implements, vocational training centres and institutions of higher learning were urged to up their game in teaching students the appropriate knowledge and skills.
A source told Namibian Sun that the agriculture ministry is not yet sure whether to mandate Agribusdev to provide technical services to the farming community of Namibia.
According to Misika, the centre will not be operated by Agribusdev like the one at Rundu. He said the decision would be made by the Procurement Board.
“The ministry is in the process of engaging an appropriate operator in accordance with the Procurement Act,” he said.
The Rundu ATC has a fully equipped workshop with state-of-the-art equipment and a qualified and experienced workforce.
Besides repairing farm implements, earth-moving equipment and irrigation systems, it hires equipment such as bulldozers, graders, forklifts, portable generators, balers and other heavy-duty machinery.
It also provides electrical services such as repair and maintenance of electrical lines, motors and panels, servicing of transformers and fault finding.
Another function of the ART is providing information technology services such as network cabling, installation of servers, configuration of servers, web design, and provision of computer hardware and software.
Misika added that the Rundu ATC has generated revenue of close to N$7 million since 2016.
No comment could be obtained from the Agribusdev managing director, Petrus Uugwanga, as he did not respond to questions sent to him.
In her home town in southwest Nigeria, her mother had trouble making enough money to feed her three children. But when Blessing arrived in Abuja, instead of going to school, the family worked her round-the-clock, beat her with an electrical wire if she forgot one of her chores and fed her rotten leftovers.
When her mother later moved to the city to be closer to her daughter, Blessing was unable to be alone with her when she came to visit.
"They would tell me that my mother was coming, that I should not tell her what was happening to me, that I should not even say anything," she says of the family.
"If she asks me how am I doing I should say I am doing fine, they said."
As the world marks 400 years since the first recorded African slaves arrived in North America, slavery remains a modern-day scourge. Over 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in forced labour, forced marriages or other forms of sexual exploitation, according to the United Nations.
Blessing, now 11, is one such victim. She was rescued in 2016 by the Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF), an anti-human trafficking group, after two years of isolation and abuse. She is still under the care of WOTCLEF, which gave consent for her to be interviewed for this story.
Africa has the highest prevalence of slavery, with more than seven victims for every 1 000 people, according to a 2017 report by human rights group Walk Free Foundation and the International Labour Office. The report defines slavery as "situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power."
Trafficking of sex workers, many of them tricked into thinking they will get employment doing something else, is one of the most widespread and abusive forms of modern-day slavery.
The experiences of Claudia Osadolor and Progress Omovhie show how poverty increases women's vulnerability to exploitation.
After Osadolor's family in Benin City in southern Nigeria hit hard times, she dropped out of university and headed to Russia after a cousin told her about someone who could help her get work there, with travel expenses paid. She left Nigeria with three other girls she did not know in June 2012. When she got to Russia a "madam" came to pick her up.
Osadolor, now 28, says she was forced into prostitution and suffered internal injuries after being made to sleep with up to 20 men a day. She was trapped for three years, with the madam coming round every two weeks to take almost all of her money.
She cries as she recounts the trauma and her relief at escaping thanks to a chance meeting with a representative of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) at a metro station.
"I feel like I paid the ultimate price for my family," she says. "But I thank God that I came back alive."
Osadolor has been able to reintegrate into society after training as a tailor back in Benin with the support of Nigerian charity Pathfinders Justice Initiative.
Omovhie, 33, also found herself enslaved after leaving Nigeria in 2015 in search of work. She paid an agent 700 000 naira (US$2 290) - money she had borrowed - to smuggle her on a journey across the Sahara desert to Libya, hoping eventually to go to Europe.
The intended final destination of people smuggled across Africa like this is often Europe, but few make it that far. Many are jailed or sold as indentured labourers when they get to Libya. Some are even sold on slave markets, according to aid groups - a chilling echo of the trans-Saharan slave trade of centuries past.
Once in Libya, Omovhie says she started working long hours as a cleaner for a well-off Arab family in Tripoli, often on an empty stomach.
"I worked three months and they did not pay me in that house," she said.
Another agent promised to help Omovhie escape by sending her to Italy, but she was rounded up by police on the Libyan coast and detained there for six months. She returned to Nigeria in July under a state programme to help refugees and migrants. It has helped over 14 000 Nigerians return home since 2017.
Blessing and Claudia Osadolor are pseudonyms requested to protect their anonymity. – Nampa/Reuters
The outbreak has killed 53 Namibians and infected almost 6 000 of Namibia's poorest since September 2017.
“I have said it time and again, that hepatitis E and even A are diseases of poverty and low socio-economic status, where there is a lack of clean water and poor personal hygiene,” Dr Bernard Haufiku, who heads the national health emergency management committee, told Namibian Sun.
Haufiku emphasised that the outbreak is not an issue confined to the health sector alone but cuts across many sectors, including environment, housing, education, communication and agriculture.
He said although relevant bodies have implemented several strategies to curb the outbreak, there is a strong push to consider alternative, additional strategies, “as our current intervention seem not to take us anywhere”.
“We are basically looking at all potential and available options including considerations for a vaccine against hepatitis E, because we simply cannot allow the situation to continue as it is now,” he said. He warned that a vaccine is “not something one can just pull from the shelf or lab and administer to people”, and that there are a myriad of critical issues to consider, with strict emphasis on safety and efficacy.
“I am personally of the view that we must now consider other available measures and options, and perhaps to do so rather fast, if we really want to bring hepatitis E under control,” he said.
Haufiku said in 2017 an offer for a vaccine developed in China was made but it was declined, partly because of strict international guidelines. He said the Namibian authorities were fairly optimistic that the outbreak could be brought under control.
“The current situation has proven us wrong, as it is now clear that we have not managed to bring the outbreak under control,” he admitted.
He repeated that in his personal view, he would not “exclude considerations for the introduction of an anti-hepatitis E vaccine,” albeit under strictly controlled conditions.
Poorest hardest hit
The most recent situation report indicates that the majority of the 5 940 Namibians infected by hepatitis E to date, namely 77%, or 4 563, are unemployed and live in informal settlements.
Moreover, 4 550 of those infected don't have indoor plumbing but depend on communal taps.
Haufiku emphasised that three underlying issues are driving the outbreak: lack of access to clean water, lack of sanitation and poor personal hygiene.
He said these issues must be addressed not only by the health teams battling the outbreak, but everyone in Namibia, including the private sector, media and others.
He stressed that the response teams' two main objectives are to prevent loss of life and to ensure the disease does not become endemic.
“More people are getting infected and more are losing their lives to the disease, especially pregnant mothers,” Haufiku warned.
“If the current situation is allowed to continue unabated, hepatitis E will become endemic in Namibia and Namibia will struggle to get rid of the virus in the community and we may actually never get rid of it at all.”
The latest situation update shows that five people died of hepatitis E in the two weeks between 14 and 29 July, bringing the death toll to 53.
A year ago, on 29 July 2018, a total of 2 435 suspected cases and 20 deaths had been reported.
Haufiku explained that the response teams are still pushing the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) campaign, along with the Community Led Total Sanitation approach, in an effort to slow down the outbreak.
Among the alternative strategies is a small project in the DRC informal settlement at Swakopmund, where a German company is distributing antiseptic products in a controlled environment, as this is the first time the products are being used in Africa.
The team has also been talking with representatives of the organisation Doctors Without Borders who are currently in Namibia to offer their help.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report ranks Namibia's tobacco consumption eighth in Africa.
The highest prevalence of tobacco smoking in Africa is in Lesotho, followed by Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa and Madagascar.
The country with the lowest prevalence of tobacco smoking in Africa is Ethiopia.
According to the report 136 countries, with a total population of five billion people, have implemented at least one policy intervention to reduce tobacco demand.
The Namibia Tobacco Products Control Act and its regulations came into effect on 1 April 2014. The Act is the primary tobacco control law in Namibia and regulates, among other things, smoke-free places, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and tobacco packaging and labelling. Regulations under the Act make provision for tobacco product health warnings, signage at the point of sale, product regulation measures, prohibited distance of smoking tobacco products from public places and workplaces, and measures to prevent illicit trade in tobacco products.
“More than ever, people are aware of tobacco's harms and consequences.
Due in part to these successes, many tobacco users now want to quit and we know how to help them,” says the report.
However, it notes that as of 2018 only 23 countries offered comprehensive cessation support for tobacco users seeking help to quit.
Tobacco cessation services include national toll-free phone lines, counselling by primary healthcare providers and cost-covered nicotine replacement therapy.
The report says non-communicable diseases (NCDs) cause more than two thirds of deaths in developing countries, and tobacco use is a major risk factor for NCDs such as cancer and heart disease.
“Yet, programmes to reduce NCDs remain chronically underfunded. Only 2% of development funding goes toward their prevention.
We are deeply concerned by the fact that the tobacco epidemic is shifting to the developing world, where less-well-resourced countries find themselves unable to counter tobacco industry exploitation of new markets – often through blatant interference with public health policy-making,” it points out.
According to the report there are an estimated 1.1 billion smokers in the world, around 80% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries.
It adds that there is a misconception that smoke-free places with designated smoking rooms protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke.
“The only intervention shown to fully protect from second-hand smoke is a smoke-free environment that permits no exceptions. It is important to remind countries that no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke exists.”
Accommodations for smoking including separate rooms, designated smoking areas, ventilation systems, air exchanges, and filtration devices are not protective, and cannot eliminate all second-hand smoke.
Furthermore the report says that graphic health warnings on tobacco product packages reliably reach tobacco users each time they use the products.
“At the same time, applying warning labels to packaging is at relatively low expense to governments. Graphic health warnings are well supported by the public – more so than most other tobacco control measures.”
Graphic health warnings also provide accurate information about the risks associated with tobacco use can help persuade tobacco users to reduce their consumption and quit.
Nicotine, a pharmacologically active drug that naturally occurs in the tobacco plant, is highly addictive and is delivered rapidly to the brain following inhalation or ingestion of tobacco products.
People who stop smoking start to reap the health benefits within hours or even minutes of quitting. In the course of just a day, quitting tobacco can reduce a person's heart rate and blood pressure, while blood carbon monoxide levels return to normal.
Within three months of quitting smoking, the circulation and lung function of a quitter improves. Coughing and shortness of breath will generally decrease within nine months of quitting smoking. The risk of death due to tobacco use also begins to decrease soon after quitting.
This follows a letter in which Al Barwani, whose net worth is believed to be over N$16 billion, raised his concerns to Geingob about the delay of the Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project after its environmental clearance certificate was set aside last year.
Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) is majority-owned by Al Barwani, who has an 85% stake through his company Mawarid Mining LLC, while Namibian businessman Knowledge Katti owns 15% of NMP through his Havana Investment.
The Sandpiper Project is located about 120 kilometres southwest of Walvis Bay. Geingob told Al Barwani that a decision was made that a meeting with the attorney-general must be convened this month, following which a final decision would be made by the government.
“Once the consultation with the attorney-general is concluded the minister of environment and tourism will make his decision and communicate to you,” Geingob wrote to Al Barwani last month.
The president's feedback to Al Barwani followed after he had taken up the delay in the project and the issuance of the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) with environment minister Pohamba Shifeta.
In a letter addressed to Shifeta, Geingob said it was disheartening that almost 10 years since the development of the project was first mooted, there was still no decision whether the ECC issued to NMP remained valid or not.
Geingob said indecision on the part of government institutions is very costly as it denies the country potential economic activities and taints the country's reputation as an attractive investment destination.
Geingob had further directed that Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila facilitate a meeting between Shifeta and his fisheries and mining counterparts to “find an immediate solution”.
Shifeta, however, told Namibian Sun yesterday that Geingob had not put pressure on him or the ministry by enquiring about the delay in the marine phosphate project.
“The president is a person who believes in the rule of law and he wanted clarification on what is happening after the investors had written to him,” he said.
Shifeta stressed that the ECC was nullified and because of a pending court case against the company's mining licence, there cannot be a pronouncement on the ECC.
He further pointed out that he is the second respondent in the case, the environmental commissioner is the first respondent, and the matter is sub judice.
“The president cannot interfere in the decision. I cannot even interfere in the decision, which will be made by the environmental commissioner and be unfettered. The president only wrote a letter to enquire about the process. Things have been blown out of proportion.”
Shifeta, however, pointed out that anyone has the right to appeal the final decision.
Al Barwani had written to Geingob in March this year, saying that after the appeal hearing in which the ECC was set aside, a public consultation process was to be completed within six months from 21 June.
“We understand that the process was completed in accordance with the minister's self-imposed timeline on 21 December. We wrote to the ministry in January, but heard nothing for more than eight weeks after the deadline until our lawyers received a letter from the minister in March stating that the finalisation of the appeal process was to be postponed until the outcome of the legal challenge to the NMP mining licence.”
Al Barwani said their legal team advised that the two matters are not connected in law.
“The minister has no legal grounds therefore to defer his decision and that NMP should proceed with further action against the minister if he insists on delaying the appeal outcome.”
He said they have invested over N$1.6 billion in both project development acquisition development and holding costs and the capital investment to develop the project in Walvis Bay is estimated at N$4.7 billion.
He said that according to a specialist economic consultant an integrated phosphate fertiliser industry would have contributed to 51 600 jobs already.
“The above study shows what the project is capable of delivering, yet time, markets and opportunity wait for no one, hence any unwarranted delay or extension of the decision-making process presents both a frustration and a risk to the project,” Al Barwani wrote to Geingob.
The ECC was first issued by the then environmental commissioner, Theofillius Nghitila, on 5 September 2016.
In November that year the ECC was withdrawn following a public outcry, court applications and an appeal by community activist Michael Gawaseb against phosphate mining.
A court case last year ruled that Namibian Marine Phosphate did not have a fair hearing when its clearance was withdrawn and therefore Shifeta decided to hold a public hearing on the matter.
Following this public hearing, Shifeta delivered his judgment on the matter and said that the certificate granted to Namibian Marine Phosphate was set aside.
However, another court case is still ongoing between Namibian Marine Phosphate and three Namibian fishing industry associations.
The associations are not only asking for the environmental clearance certificate to be declared illegal, but also want the company's mining licence declared unlawful, because it had apparently expired.
The fishing industry is also against the ocean being turned into an “experimental ground for phosphate mining”.
NMP holds Mining Licence 170, which is located 120 km southwest of Walvis Bay and was issued on 26 July 2011. The mining licence covers an area of 2 223 square kilometres in water depths of between 190 and 300 metres.
Housing is a potential lightning rod for public discontent in a country where affordable dwellings are beyond the reach of many, posing a key challenge for crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as he seeks to overhaul the oil-reliant economy.
For decades, the once tax-free petro-state dished out interest-free housing loans.
But Saudi Arabia is now pushing to boost mortgage lending in a contentious policy shift that is squeezing the middle-class as it chips away at its cradle-to-grave welfare in an era of low oil prices.
For many like Abdullah, a 39-year-old father of three with a rented apartment in Riyadh, this has delayed the dream of building his own home on the city's outskirts.
Crunching the numbers
After more than a decade on a waiting list for an interest-free loan from the kingdom's Real Estate Development Fund, Abdullah says it referred him to a commercial bank to take out a mortgage worth 445 000 riyals (US$119 000).
He used the money to start building a house on a 350 000 riyals parcel of land for which he took a separate bank loan, but construction had to be halted in May after he ran out of money.
Set up in 1974, the Fund is a government entity linked to the housing ministry, and covers about a quarter of Abdullah's monthly mortgage payment.
But Abdullah says he is still left struggling to pay off both loans that eat up roughly half his monthly income of 20 000 riyals (US$5 300) amid rising living costs.
"The [mortgage] system is destroying the middle class, it is suffocating us," he told AFP outside his half-finished home, urging a return to the interest-free loans.
The strain is felt more acutely by 41-year-old government employee Majid, who earns only slightly more than the national average monthly income of 14 820 riyals (US$3 950).
Such lower middle-class citizens are already struggling as the government scales back subsidies, hiking water, electricity and gasoline prices and imposing a five percent value-added tax.
He is among some 500 000 people said to remain on the Fund's waiting list for interest-free loans, with a final decision expected by 2020.
The Fund and the housing ministry did not respond to AFP's requests for an interview.
"The key to addressing the Saudi housing crisis is ... to stimulate private sector funding and cut the longstanding reliance on government subsidies," Saudi expert Najah al-Otaibi told AFP.
But this is all a shock to many Saudis accustomed for decades to cheap loans and a tax-free lifestyle.
It highlights the petro-state's challenge in weaning citizens off government largesse amid a huge fiscal deficit, projected to reach US$35 billion in 2019, or 4.2% of GDP.
"In Saudi Arabia, now there is a dual tension - first is to provide affordable housing for the younger generation feeling the pinch of higher costs of living, reduced subsidies, and less jobs," Karen Young, from the American Enterprise Institute, told AFP.
"Second is to broaden financial services to expand credit products, and hope to spur consumer growth. The latter has more chances of broader economic growth than returning to free government housing practices."
The world's top oil exporter says it is seeking to partner with the private sector to stump up billions of US dollars to build around 1.5 million affordable homes in the coming years.
Boosting home ownership is one of the key cornerstones of Prince Mohammad's Vision 2030 reform programme. Nearly half of the country's 20.7 million Saudis owned their own home in 2017, with hopes of reaching 70% by 2030.
The kingdom also wants to reduce the cost of an average home by 2020 to five times the average annual income, down from 10 times the yearly salary in 2015.
Saudi Arabia has only a single digit mortgage penetration, one of the lowest among G20 countries, according to the Arab News daily.
The housing ministry, which has announced multiple housing schemes to alleviate the crisis, says it seeks to increase total mortgages to 502 billion riyals (US$134 billion) by 2020, up from 290 billion riyals (US$77 billion) in 2017.
But some Saudis are pushing back, voicing resentment over continued state spending on grand projects like NEOM, a planned US$500 billion mega city in the kingdom's northwest, while many cannot afford homes.
"Where is the 250 billion riyals?" has been a recent refrain on social media.
It refers to the US$67 billion allocated to the housing ministry in 2011 by the then King Abdullah, apparently to address popular discontent as Arab Spring protests swept the region.
For Majid, who waited for years for a loan from the Fund, the current scenario means he can only rent a small place rather than purchasing a house.
"When my eight-year-old daughter has to change her clothes in front of her brothers, I feel ashamed I don't have a bigger house of my own," Majid told AFP, requesting that his real name be withheld. – Nampa/AFP
Iyambo, who is acting for Freddy Mwiya while he is absent from office, said it's not up to them to declare or make a decision on the way forward regarding NPL promotions and relegations, which were scrapped by Fifa.
She said they can give advice on the next step, which is for NPL to seek consultations with sports minister Erastus Uutoni, who can then appoint an appeals committee to listen to their grievances.
The decision by Fifa is that no NPL clubs should be relegated, because the country's first division streams are inactive.
However, the NPL is not heeding this call and has announced a 2019/20 fixtures list with 13 clubs, which will kick off next month.
The NPL has pronounced itself on the start date of the league, despite the fact that Fifa normalisation committee chairperson Hilda Basson-Namundjebo has warned it is acting beyond its mandate.
Basson-Namundjebo said the NPL is not the mother body of local football and thus cannot pronounce itself on the kickoff date, as this is the current job of the Fifa normalisation committee.
She further instructed the NPL to acquaint itself with the NFA constitution and statutes, and to do things accordingly.
“You do not have the prerogative to announce yourself on the league kickoff. We are busy finalising the dates and want the premier league as well as the first and second divisions to start collectively,” Basson-Namundjebo said on Tuesday.
She is backed by an NFA statute, which states that the premier league should consist of 16 clubs.
In addition it states that any matter relating to the promotion or relegation of a club to or from one league to another, and for which no provision is made, shall be decided by the executive committee of the association, whose decision shall be final.
Also, no member of a league shall amend or change the format of the promotion or relegation of clubs, as contained in the NFA regulations.
Furthermore, a member or league that contravenes the provisions of the rules, commits an act of misconduct.
The men's side will face Egypt today.
The women's side started the qualifiers on a bad foot, after they were beaten 0-1 by Kenya, despite dominating the match.
Coach Erwin Haindura said an inability to take their chances cost the Namibians.
The men's team went down 1-3 to South Africa in their opening match.
They lost their second match to Ghana on Tuesday, again losing 1-3.
They will face Egypt today in their third match.
In a letter dated 2 August, Alan president Katrina Shimbulu was informed by Windhoek mayor Muesee Kazapua of the decision to resign, as per a resolution taken by the City Council at its monthly council meeting in July.
The resolution said the City would resign from Alan “until they put their house in order and provide the necessary financial reports as requested, upon which council will re-join”.
Namibian Sun reported in July that the city council had resolved to resign from Alan because the voluntary body had failed to provide financial and activity reports as requested.
Documents seen by Namibian Sun showed that the City of Windhoek has long maintained a good standing with Alan with annual membership fee payments, and assisted the association in holding congresses and events.
The last annual fee of N$150 000 was paid in October 2018.
Nevertheless, the July council agenda noted that “the City on several occasions made written requests to Alan to share the said reports, in which the association has failed to submit any reports for the past years”.
With the Alan membership fees for the upcoming financial year in July, the City last week placed the issue of membership on the agenda and resolved to resign for the time being, pending a response to their long-standing request for reports.
In November last year, after the membership fee had been paid, then acting CEO Ludwig Narib reminded Alan in a letter to respond to their request.
“Your office is further reminded that the City of Windhoek has not yet received Alan's report as per the undertaking in your letter dated October. Once again, we kindly request you to furnish my office with the outstanding report for consideration by council.”
Shimbulu in a response letter, addressed to the mayor's office and dated February 2019, said Alan “will provide the report once it is available. We humbly request your office to bear with us in this regard”.
Council document from July indicated that by then, activity and financial reports were still pending.
Alan recently informed Namibian Sun that its 57 members will be provided with an audited financial report at its annual general meeting this October.
Such a dispensation, he said, must also cater for cases in which farms are bought and sold between private entities, and should protect farmworkers against inhumane layoffs, evictions and corridor dumping.
“The current system that leaves all farmworkers out in the cold is morally repugnant, as it perversely creates major social problems that are preventable. In the greater Khomas Region, where the majority of farmworkers are of |Khomanî origin, such a system will go a long way in addressing the plight of this vulnerable group,” he said.
Rosa Namises, a human rights activist who also doubles as a representative of the |Khomanîn, agreed there is a need for government to restore the dignity of farmworkers.
She emphasised there is also a more pressing need for government to recognise that generational farmworkers residing in corridors are the children of those who lost their land during the “land robbery”.
“And what followed this land robbery was slavery. The people were robbed of an independent life and self-employment opportunities, and forced to work for a farmer; often the same person who took their land,” she said.
Namises is, however, not in agreement with a special dispensation, but is rather seeking complete restoration.
“They have lost everything. Government must bring restorative justice to the people of Khomas and other generational farmworkers; this includes for women and children, who have become adults today,” said Namises.
According to her this must include them returning to their land and providing them with support and technical assistance.
“But you cannot include those people who have already benefitted to some degree (in terms) of restoration.
“But the |Khomanîn people have never received an inch of restoration. They are the people who are living in the driest parts of Sori Soris and who are spread out in different parts of Namibia. They have not received a spoonful of the fruits of independence. They are struggling and downtrodden,” she added.
This is according to outgoing chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah.
Namibia's international relations minister made these remarks while handing over the chairpersonship to Tanzania's foreign affairs minister Palamagamba Kabudi at the 39th SADC summit on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said there is no doubt that the region has made some progress in terms of the socio-economic agenda.
However, economic integration, including industrialisation, remains at the core of SADC's integration agenda and was central to the diversification of regional economic growth.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said SADC needs to prioritise trade facilitation, including road infrastructure.
She noted that the region also needs to find ways to reduce transport costs and transit delays, in order to prepare it to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Nandi-Ndaitwah further stressed the region has faced serious climatic challenges and there is thus a need for strong early warning mechanisms, as well as mitigation and adaptation measures, to cope with the impact of climate change.
“The SADC secretariat continues to play an instrumental role in our work to deliver on our regional agenda, in an effort to improve the living standards of our people in all spheres,” she said.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said SADC is in the process of realigning its strategic plans and renewing its priorities, to ensure they are relevant to the challenges faced by the region and continental aspirations.
She also called on SADC to ensure the full implementation of the SADC Solidarity Conference with Western Sahara and walk its people to self-determination.