By: Wonder Guchu and Leonard Haufiku
The communities from Ondando C have requested that all illegal sand and gravel mining activities in Oniipa Constituency and Oshikoto region must be stopped, and environmental laws must be implemented to the letter.
They also want the perpetrators of the illegal sand and gravel mining activity in Ondando-C to rehabilitate the environment, cease their mining activities, and leave the community in peace.
This comes after a meeting that had been scheduled for Friday where the environment minister Pohamba Shifeta was expected to attend failed to take place.
The meeting was supposed to bring together the Ondando C communities and the Ondonga Traditional Authority, which is accused of allowing businesspeople to mine sand in the area.
Friday’s meeting was the second where the Ondonga Traditional Authority failed to attend.
A statement signed by Jesaya Nambundunga and Oscar Shikongo dated 24 September 2021, raises concerns with the postponement and Shifeta’s no-show to resolve the matter.
In particular, the communities are appealing the Environment Clearance Certificate 00985 with serial number: f9c0i985 issued to the Ondonga Traditional Authority to mine sand in their area.
The statement addressed to the communities of Onamulunga, Okanenge and Oniihandi as well as the Oniipa constituency questions whether approaching the minister was a genuine process that will give them justice.
The appeal is based on the Environment Management Act 2007, (Act No. 7 of 2007).
They say that they have been waiting for Shifeta to address the issue since November 2020 and to hear their grievances, pain and frustration.
“The Ondonga Traditional Authority’s derelictions of duties as bestowed upon them by the act of parliament is appalling.
“Illegal sand and gravel mining in Oniipa town, Oniipa Constituency and Oshikoto region at large is causing destruction to the environment, distressing our communities, and destabilizing peace in the region,” the statement says.
The community says they were asked by the appeal secretary to attend a meeting at the Ondando-Epale new borrow pit where the appeal hearing was supposed to be heard on 23 August 2021.
“Ondonga Traditional Authority did not show up under flimsy excuses,” they say.
They further say that on 14 September 2021, the appeal secretary invited them for another meeting slated for Friday and the Ondonga Traditional Authority did not turn up.
According to the community, the Ondonga Traditional Authority has not been attending the hearings despite the warning from Shifeta that any party that does not show up on the specified date, the minister will make the ruling and his decision will be binding.
“We would like to indicate that this postponement shows disrespect to us Ondando community and all interested and affected parties.
“After many community members took leave of absence from their employers, travelled long distances, incurred legal costs to attend the appeal hearing, the minister through his appeal secretary called-off the meeting at the eleventh hour. No valid reasons were provided except that Ondonga Traditionary Authority is not available,” they say.
A letter dated 14 September from Shifeta’s office and addressed to Dr Reinhold Kamati says should anybody fail to appear the minister will “preside over and continue with the appeal hearing in their absence”.
“The decision of the minister will bind all the parties,” the letter says.
Shifeta told Eagle FM on Friday that he was at Ongenga attending a funeral.
When asked whether he was coming, he said was on his way to Windhoek.
Shifeta also said that he would not attend because the Ondonga Traditional Authority would not be attending.
The minister also said that the Ondando community should resolve the matter with the Ondonga Traditional Authority.
The office of the environmental commission has so far written three letters to the Ondonga Traditional Authority regarding the issue of sand mining in Ondando.
The first letter is dated 23 June 2021 which says that the office of the environmental commission was worried with the non-compliance to the conditions of the environmental clearance certificate for the sand/ gravel mining activities at Ondando C Borrow Pit.
“Some of the non-compliance reported and observed include the disturbance and intersecting of the underground water at the site, and the construction and operating of the gravel road to and from the site without appropriate authorization,” the letter says.
According to the letter, the environmental clearance certificate (ECC-00985) with serial number: f9cOiW985 for Ondando C Borrow Pit was suspended until further notice.
“Consequently, you are hereby issued with a compliance order and are hereby ordered to immediately stop sand mining at Ondando borrow pit till further notice and rectify al the above-mentioned non-compliance by 31 August 2021.
“Failure to comply with this compliance order will result in this office taking legal action against you in terms of section 20(8), which upon conviction calls for a fine not exceeding N$500 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 25 years or to both such fine and imprisonment,” the letter says.
Another letter by the environmental commissioner was written to the Oshikoto Regional police commander commissioner Armas Shivute and was copied to the Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga.
Dated 23 June 2021, the letter requests Shivute to help with stopping sand mining at Ondando C.
It reads: “This letter serves as a formal request to your good office to assist this office in preventing and blocking further activities related to the removal of sand and gravel from this site (Ondando C).
“In addition, I hereby request your good office to support our office in sealing off all the entrances to the site,” it reads.
A third letter dated 25 August 2021 modified the first compliance order given on 23 June 2021.
According to this letter, there were observations made regarding the Ondando C Borrow Pit. These were the exceeding of allowed 1,5m of excavation which resulted in intersecting and disturbance of the underground water.
“The Ondonga Traditional Authority has allowed the excavation activities on the site to exceed the 1,5m allowed for in the environmental management plan which is part of the environment clearance certificate conditions,” the letter says.
Furthermore, the letter says the construction and operation of the gravel road to and from the site without appropriate authorization has cause impact to the surrounding environment and communities.
Despite all these letters, the sand mining has been going on unabated.
THE MODUS OPERANDI
Nambundunga told The Villager that the sand miners approach widows and vulnerable people using the King’s name and that of some other traditional leaders.
He also said the businesspeople then promise to pay out the widows and the vulnerable so that they can mine said in their mahangu fields.
“It is not the people whose fields have been mined who approach the businesspeople,” he said.
According to Nambundunga, some of the businesspeople active in the area are Martin Shambo, Kennedy Nangolo police officer serious crime Ondangwa police station, and is brother to Oshana regional commander Rauna Amweele, the Ondangwa mayor Paavo Amweele who is also married to the commissioner, J&M company owned by Joseph Njembo Kalandi, Zenipo Trading owned by Mr Balak, and Henning Crasher.
He also listed Niimboto Trading CC and Shivute Trading CC.
The Villager has a list of the illegal pits that have been left either open or are still being exploited.
There are five in Ondando; seven in Olukonda, one in Onalulago, two in Okanenge, one in Okambode, one has been proposed in Omapalala; one in Oshaakondwa, one at Onathinge, and several others in Omuthiya
ENTER AR ACTIVISTS
Some AR activists have written to the Ondonga chief regarding the meeting that did not happen.
They also complained about Shifeta non-appearance at the sand mining hearing in Oniipa.
Part of the letter says there was a sand mining appeal between the residents of Oniipa Constituency and Ondonga Traditional Authority. “The communication from the Ministry of Environment was that today (Friday) would be the final hearing, even if the one of the affected parties don’t show up.
“To our dismay, the minister canceled the hearing on the 11th hour, contrary to what the conditions of stated in the letter,” the activists say.
They add that their conclusion is that Shifeta is compromised and captured by the illegal sand miners.
The AR spokesperson Simon Amunime said he had visited the different sites in Oniipa Town and the sand mining has inflicted much damage and pain on the environment and the inhabitants.
“We are highly disappointed by our leaders, we have a councillor who never showed up to assess the situation, we have the Governor of Oshikoto Penda ya Ndakolo he also never came to us at least to say I’ve heard you have issues in your community, what is wrong with our leaders?” they stressed.
Amunime also says the Ondonga Traditional Authority and the minister of environment Pohamba Shifeta are being used by the sand miners.