By: Andrew Kathindi
Businessman Laban Kandume has denied allegations that his company Sky Eye Hospitality and Tours was given a 20-year concession for transport at Sossusvlei due to relationship with tourism minister, Pohamba Shifeta.
Quizzed on whether Kandume, who hails from the same northern constituency as Shifeta, had engaged with the minister prior to his company receiving the contract, he said, “No, it’s not true. Shifeta lives in Ongenga and I live in Ongenga, but is there a law in Namibia that prohibits someone from requesting someone to do business with government just because someone is from a certain area?”
He added, “If I live in Windhoek East and [Leon] Jooste lives in Windhoek East. So, does that mean that I cannot go to enterprises[ministry] and pitch an idea which is innovative and makes business sense and get it just because we live in the same area?”
Ongenga is a constituency in the Ohangwena Region and very close to Namibia’s border with Angola.
Kandume further argued that his pitch was accepted by the tourism ministry because of his plan to install cable cars which, he says, were viewed to be friendlier to the environment than the 4X4 that Namibia Wildlife Resort (NWR) has been operating.
Kandume also argued that he was trying to penetrate a white dominated business.
According to a letter by Shifeta, Kandume was to find an amicable working relationship with NWR as one of the conditions of his contract.
According to media reports, NWR have generated N$10 million a year from operating 4X4 shuttles for their customers.
Kandume stated that he wrote to NWR last year but has not received a response since.
Kandume said the company was at an advanced stage of getting the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and has appointed an EIA consultant
“With Sossusvlei, it’s a bit challenging. We came up with an idea to blend it into the nature. We are going to put up pillars and it will blend in with the nature of the park.”
The cable cars are operated by electricity.
He said he expects construction to begin in February 2022 and for the cable cars to be operational six months after that.
According to Kandume, it will cost around him N$180 million for the cable cars and helium balloon systems.
A letter by Shifeta to Kandume stated “I therefore hereby award the rights you have applied for, subject to the following (regarding the helium balloons) obtaining a no objection letter from the National Heritage Council, that there are no overlapping rights with the existing exclusive rights given to another operator, and obtaining Environmental Clearance Certificate.”
NWR managing director Dr Matthias Ngwangwama told The Villager that they did not receive any communication from Sky Eye Hospitality and Tours and that it could not discuss the matter of the Sossusvlei concession with any other party or individual other than the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.
“NWR received a notification letter from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism about a shuttle service concession been awarded to another company.
“NWR responded to the Ministry, inter alia, stating concerns that the shuttle service is a major revenue generator to the company and removing it will have serious financial impact on the company.”
He said NWR then requested Sky Eye Hospitality and Tours’ business plan from the tourism ministry to see what business intentions the company in order to position themselves.
“We never received the business plan requested and we left the matter at that. That is all NWR’s involvement in this. We could not discuss the matter with, or respond to, any other party, company or individual other than the Ministry of Environment and Tourism who informed us first and to whom we raised our concerns and expected a reply before any other further discussions, if at all.”
In regard to the motorised passenger transport, the award is subject to engagement and consultation with Namibia Wildlife Resorts, to work on the proposal further.