Namibia: Okahandja Accused of Favouring Chinese

RESIDENTS of Okahandja are claiming that local companies are “chronically” sidelined by the municipality, while Chinese entrepreneurs are favoured in the allocation of permits for the use of natural resources within the town’s boundaries.

More recently, they said, a Chinese company was given a permit to mine sand in the Okahandja River at the expense of local small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

To make matters worse, the accusation goes, the Chinese were given a favoured price of N$4,85 per cubic metre for the sand, while local companies have to pay almost double that amount.

A local company like Makalani Bricks & Sand has been paying N$16,23 per cubic metre – Value Added Tax (VAT) excluded – since February last year with an annual increase of 10 percent.

“Some people’s money speaks louder than that of others,” a source said.

Another thorn in the flesh of residents is that the municipality allegedly does not monitor and control the amount of sand the Chinese company is carting off from the Okahandja River.

A concern was also that the company might not adhere to a regulation that stipulates that sand should not be mined closer than 50 metres from the banks of the river, a measure to prevent further environmental degradation and flooding of the riverbanks.

Residents also charged that Chinese people have taken over most plots in the town’s industrial area, where their brick factories dominate.

“When it comes to elections, it is those people who are now sidelined for permits that stand in long queues to vote for the people who turn them down. With things going the way they do right now, does it mean that the next generation of Namibians have to buy land from the Chinese?” an irate resident asked.

Phillip Endjala in the town planning department of the Okahandja municipality first claimed that he was not aware of the issue.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” was Endjala’s initial reaction.

When pressed on the matter, he said the municipality had not called for expressions of interest, and that a Chinese company, which he did not identify, had applied to the municipality to ask permission to mine sand in the river.

The local SMEs, he said, only approached the municipality after the Chinese company had been given the go-ahead to mine a portion in the river, and there were no appropriate areas left to mine.

Endjala initially said he could not give the exact tariff charged to the Chinese company because he could not remember it offhand, but insisted that it would be in accordance with the regular tariff structure of the municipality.

Later in the day, after having consulted his superiors, he said that a contract with the Chinese company still had to be finalised and that the company had in the meantime been given consent to go ahead with the sand mining.

In the meantime, he said, the company was paying a rental fee. He would not divulge the amount.

He also denied the accusation that the council was not monitoring or controlling the sand mining of the Chinese company.

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