By Risco Lumamezi
THE ongoing cutting down of timber by a Chinese company at the proposed green scheme farm of Katima at Chantuwu in Liselo area north-west of Katima Mulilo is raising concerns to residents of the region.
In an interview with the Spokesperson of Liselo Sub-Khuta and Traditional Induna Mr.Lennox Kalima Lutambo of the Mafwe Traditional Authority confirmed that, the Chinese did not just come to cut timbers at Katima Farm but are there to cultivate 2000-hectares of land that was donated to the government by Liselo Sub-Khuta and was approved by His Royal Highness Chief George Simasiku Mamili VII of the Mafwe Royal Establishment.
Induna Lutambo confirmed that the land was donated for green scheme projects to the government and the tender document was drafted and publicized calling people to apply and a certain company qualified and sub-contracted Chinese to cut down trees and Di-bushing behind. The project that was supposed to start early January this year only started in February 2017.“We called companies who are working at the farm to our Khuta and told them to employ community members of Liselo because they should be the first to benefit to any project that comes into their land but they never followed our agreement, maybe its only two or three people who are employed there which is a loss to us” said Induna Lutambo.
Caprivi Vision established that the Chinese are cutting timbers and transport them to China via the port of Walvisbay using local trucks where they are sold and produce finished products that are sold back to Namibian companies and local stores in return.
Mr. Lutambo noted that the community of Liselo is aware of the project but not the entire region. “The government gave mandate to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to run the project and went to our Khuta where I was chosen to work together with them as an Induna and Spokesperson of the Khuta and whatever was happening between me and the Ministry of Agriculture I was informing my colleagues until the green scheme people came into power and I hope all leaders of this region know about this 2000 hectare project.” he explained.
He mentioned that the main aim of Liselo for donating land to the government for free is the high rate of unemployment that seems to distress the youth in the region.
The 2000 hectares of land for green scheme projects was given to the government seven (7 )years ago but they were still some preparations on how to go ahead with it.
He said, green scheme project would decrease the escalating number of crime in the region if high percentage of unemployed youth who are involving themselves in alcohol and drug abuse and other related intolerant when they get employment.
Induna Lutambo added that “As for now the is no way Liselo Sub-Khuta can stop Chinese from cutting timbers and transport them to China because of the tender document that was issued by the government.”
However, Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Alfea Sampofu told Caprivi Vision that the green scheme project at Katima Farm is to start very soon and the Zambezi Regional Council has requested that since 2011.
Sampofu sait that before the cutting of those timbers, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry had advertised the project on cutting, Di-bushing and fencing of the farm on May 28, 2016 and Liselo Sub-Khuta gave away 2000 hectares of land for free in addition to the 300 hectares which was already there, giving a total of 2300 hectares.
The environmental impact assessment that was done at the farm site recommended that whatever contractors will get from the area should know what to use it, “In that area we know that there are lot of timbers and its part of forestry and the Ministry of Forestry have done a lot to safe guard those timbers, the contractors who won the tender sub-contracted Chinese to cut timbers.” Stressed governor Sampofu.
“We only saw timbers being cut there at the site but as the Regional Council we were not informed, we called in the forestry division to come and explain on what was going on and they told us that they are monitoring the cutting down of the timbers and that they have to put charges for every timber which is cut and money is paid to forestry” he said.
Mr. Sampofu also stressed that Liselo Sub-Khuta also came in and had an agreement with the sub-contractor that if they are taking out timbers from their land they should also benefit, through a cooperate social responsibility of the company they had to do some to the community and agreed that Chinese should electrify Liselo villages and later on the Mafwe Royal Establishment was also involved in the matter.
“Last week we had a meeting here with the Director of Forestry and also asked me what you are asking as the Regional Council we find it that its now too late to get involved since we were not informed at the initial stage otherwise we would have told them whatever we could use timbers, we have a Vocational School here that could give timbers to produce desks for our schools in the region, and in such a way the region could have benefited” noted Sampofu.
Asked on why he was quoted by the Namibian Newspaper recently saying that “Zambezi people are not business minded and are sleeping” he said he want them to involve themselves, “We are sited on millions here but we are doing nothing on our land, look at what is happening at our market today we are buying fish which is coming from Zambia also vegetables what are our people doing?” He questioned.
On the way forward about timber cutting Sampofu quashed, its now water under the bridge as they were not involved at the beginning and timbers has to go because they can’t stop them as they fear to be taken to court. “We do not have money to pay once will be taken to court” he added.
Governor Sampofu mentioned out that they do not know for how long the cutting process will take and as for now they had requested for the tender document from the Ministry to come and see for how long it will last.
According to his experience with the people of the region is that they like complaining without attending meetings.
He further requested and appealed to the residents of the region to attend meetings in order to get information not listening to rumors around because they will get lost.
Meanwhile, in a press statement sent to Caprivi Vision, the exiled politician and leader of the United Democratic Party President Albert Mishake Muyongo opinionated and expressed anger that timber plantation is one of the major resources that Caprivi is rich in and warned the Namibian authority for the distractions,exploitation and tear down the God given natural resources of the Caprivi Strip.
“In any case it is not allowed to harvest the natural resources of a particular place and transport such to another Country for own benefit without considering the Local people. I have no doubt that these are China mafias who are dealing with the corrupted so called elite of the SWAPO regime”.
Mr. Muyongo expressed concerns that “A responsible Government must not allow what is happening with timber cutting from Caprivi to China. This is regardless either the tender for such a project was given to a local person or maybe such cutting could be for a demarcated area for another purpose or whatever; the question remains, what benefit will come to the inhabitants of the Caprivi?”
The Caprivi leader who is currently living in Denmark since 1998 further pointed out and suggested to the Namibian government to bring in investors who could create employment to the Caprivians.
“Currently there is an ongoing massive harvesting of the devil- claws which I believe is being sold in China, there is no regulations for such activities, as a result such natural resources becomes extinct. If Caprivi was seen as the land of the devil-claws, why can’t those buyers invest in the Caprivi Strip; to help the Caprivian people with employment and affordable medication which comes from their own product?”