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Zambezi Waterfront toss-up into a white elephant

By Simon Liseli                   

A-multi-million dollar government funded project, Zambezi Waterfront Tourism Park (ZWTP) at Katima Mulilo is currently in a dysfunctional state while workers and residents of the region have raised eyebrows on its poor operations.

About N$ 350-million was injected by the ministry of finance as the initiator of the project idea, mooted in the year 2000 to uplift the living standards of the people of the Caprivi.

Eventually, the constructions of this state-of-the-art park kicked off late in 2007, amid accusations of alleged massive corruption, nepotism and tribalism, maladministration, mismanagement and embezzlement of public funds by former top managers of the project were at the centre stage at the time.

Zambezi Waterfront

About forty-two (42) workers of ZWTP were retrenched last year June, and 18 workers were reappointed on contractual basis with limited benefits.

Before the retrenchment and closure of the waterfront in 2016, workers staged a peaceful demonstration against re-structuring and franchising of the Zambezi Waterfront into a public private partnership (PPP), and the petition was handed over to the Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu, and all proved futile.

Concerned privy sources at Zambezi Waterfront have accused members of the current board that was appointed in 2015 of trying to ruin the project that was intended to reduce high unemployment rate among youth in the region and promoting tourism.

“Nothing is happening to the project since June last year, buildings are getting old without making any profit since they stopped with their services on January 31, 2016 due to poor administration and management of the current board” noted unnamed source.

The public claims that the current board that was appointed by the Minister of Environment and Tourism Mr.Pohamba Shifeta has done nothing since its inception two years ago, and is quiet together with the Regional Governor of Zambezi while the project dies a natural death.

“Go there and see for yourself nothing is happening the little developments that wanted to come when it opened in 2014 has gone. We thought that the project will change the image of the region and invite more foreign investors and boost tourism in creating employment to the youth,” Said an aggrieved employee who opted to remain anonymous.

Caprivi Vision established from insiders that the board in place only succeeded on the retrenchments of workers reasoning the fact that the company was operating on a loss without making any profit margin, which the public described as baseless, distorted, without truth and lacking facts.

They also added that political leaders within the region are quiet and only looking at the project to shut down because of not having mentality of developing the region.

Meanwhile, eighteen workers who survived the retrenchment were given six months contract that comes to an end on the 31st of this month.

“We are looking forward for developments and job creation not dumping people in streets because crime increases and push up activism since they have nothing to do” noted the concerned employee.

However, Zambezi Governor Lawrence Sampofu said the project waterfront was initiated by the government of Namibia and pumped lot of money for the development of the project that was directly coming from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry was tasked to monitor its constructions.

In May 2014 the former Minister of Finance now the Prime Minister of Namibia Ms.Saara Kuungoguelwa -Amadhila handed over ZWTP to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to run the project, since then the project is not moving in order to attract tourists to provide their accommodation and now it is closed.

“There was first board of directors who were running the project when it opened but since they left the project still at the same level.” said Sampofu.

According to him another new board was appointed which decided that the project should run as the public private partnership entity or a joint venture with any business or investor and the board recommended to the ministry to advertise so that they invite any investor to come as a joint venture but the ministry never advertised in the local newspapers.

Governor Sampofu stressed that, the current board decided to close the project while still looking for joint venture. He responded that when the project closed only a small skeleton of workers was left to take care of the vicinity and those who were retrenched were paid their full benefits.

“It’s closed as we are talking now because it was not generating any income and government decided to stop all workers who were not producing anything,” noted the governor.

Sampofu confirmed that they were some negotiations between the workers, union and the government pertaining the labour matters and the agreement was signed among the parties.

“Public have rights to accuse the current board but its difficult for it to run something that is not functioning and they are trying to make it function and its working very hard, they are just waiting for the Ministry of environment to advertise for joint venture and we are not happy to see that project closing we want it to work tourism in this region is of potential and we are just 200 kilometers from Victoria falls and few kilometers to game parks “he explained.

Zambezi governor further said is happy with development projects in the region such as taking potable water to rural areas, upgrading and the construction of roads; including the upgrading of health facilities and many other developments.