Chairperson of the Kavango East Communal Land Board, Bernardino Mbumba, says that he was aware that Recon Africa did not have leasehold agreements when they began activities in the Kawe and Mbambi villages.
The oil and gas company is currently exploring gas in the two Kavango regions.
Mbumba said they received applications on 16 April 2021 for both Mbambi and Kawe sites from Recon Africa. However, in January, the company already began with activities on the two sites two months before that.
Mbumba made these remarks before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by former ICT minister Tjekero Tweya.
Tweya quizzed the Kavango East Communal Land Board on why they did not stop Recon Africa from their activities when they discovered that their leasehold permit was not granted.
“Maybe the thing that stopped us not stopping Recon Africa was when we came in because we started in April; Recon Africa had already started with the previous board and from the traditional authority. The people who were supposed to stop Recon Africa was the previous board because Recon Africa started to operate while they were there. We were dealing with the application,” said Mbumba.
He said when the board was appointed; they only focused on processing the application and seeing its outcome.
“We didn’t consider it. It’s not ignorance; it was just not in our mind by that time when we were busy processing the application.”
Tweya asked why the board took five months, focusing only on processing the application.
Mbumba said, “but we can still fine them. It’s not a problem.”
“You were fully aware why did you not act in terms of the law and your mandate? Shall we take it that you deliberately ignored that or that you failed? Or you don’t have the capacity or the competence to enforce that law?” Tweya asked.
Mbumba conceded, “On that one, we have failed.”
According to fellow land board member Samuel Amutenya, breaching the regulations in this matter may constitute fine or possible incarceration.
“Any person who has been convicted of an offence in terms of these regulations of the land board Act is liable for a fine of up to N$4000, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding or both,” Amutenya said.
Recon Africa communications director Ndapewoshali Shapwanale said that everything was above board as the oil and gas company had the permission of the traditional authority when they started with their activities.
“Recon Africa has been granted the consent from the traditional authority to enter and undertake exploration operation as required by the petroleum exploration license, granted to the company by the government of Namibia,” she told The Villager.
In terms of the petroleum Act, she said that Recon Africa has exclusive right to conduct exploration activity in its license area, which covers Mbambi and Kawe locations.
“These two sites had not been allocated to anyone, and so the traditional authority, as the custodian of the communal land, granted the company consent to enter the two locations and carry out the drilling operations to satisfy the requirements,” she said.
Mbumba argued that according to the communal land act, the powers of the board supersede those of traditional authorities.
“As a board, we oversee even the allocation done by the traditional authority. We do have that right,” he said.
The communal land Act states that the board’s functions are to “exercise control over the allocation and the cancellation of customary land rights by Chiefs or Traditional Authorities under this Act and to consider and decide on applications for a right of leasehold under this Act.”