By: Justicia Shipena
Businessman Laban Kandume says critics of his proposal to construct a motor and railway transport system in the Sossusvlei have nothing to do with the environment.
According to him, the talk on environmental damages is by people who don’t want the project to go ahead as they are more interested in raking in profits.
“The issue on the project is going to destroy the environment is just talks of someone that does not want the project to go forth because they are more interested in raking in profits like they’ve been doing for the past 40-50 years,” Kandume told The Villager on Monday.
Kandume claims that the critics come because they are worried about the money they will lose.
“Because of our population, it has nothing to do with the environment. These people don’t care about the environment,” he said.
He questioned what concessions and monopolies are being played in this matter.
“Why is it okay for other people to pitch their unsolicited ideas to the ministries than get a concession? How is that hand-picked? How many people don’t have concessions?
People are complaining about a monopoly. What is a monopoly? People have over 70 lodges in Namibia, complaining about someone having a monopoly,” he stressed.
Kandume said a man has been operating a helium balloon for the longest; however, he said he got back the tender after it lapsed.
“He has done so for over 30 years, and his 20 years lapsed as per the agreement. He got back the tender and won it again. Is that not also a monopoly?” questioned Kandume.
He further said Namibia Wild Resort (NWR) has access to all national parks.
“They are the only ones operating in those parks; is that not a monopoly?”
He also questioned who is to define the term monopoly in this matter.
“Who is to define what a monopoly is? If the concession we currently have is a monopoly, then everyone with a concession is a monopoly,” said Kandume.
Kandume added that some issues are taken because some people feel entitled to certain areas and sectors.
“They feel like other players should not come into the industry. If you go to an area and people ask you, who are you, where are you coming from, what are you doing in our land? As if I’m not Namibian, these people should clearly state their problem,” stressed Kandume.
According to Kandume, in 2019, Namibia received about 45 000 vehicles at Sossusvlei when tourism started to pick up.
“We are anticipating receiving a large number of tourists. What if tourism in the next five years increases to 100 00 vehicles travelling to Sossusvlei? What will happen to the flora and what will happen to the environment if we continue with the status quo,” he said.
Kandume added that there was a problem with the current management plan drafted, highlighting the current situation.
“Everyone is aware of the problem. Even the current operators claiming that their employees will lose their jobs or it will damage the environment have admitted that they have neglected the current situation because there is no control.”
In her submission to Green Earth Environmental Consultants, Christelle du Toit-Oosthuizen, representing Taleni Africa Tourism, which owns Sossusvlei Lodge, said it is unethical to allow a monopoly regarding transportation into Sossusvlei.
Green Earth Environmental Consultants is conducting the EIA on behalf of Kandume.
She had also said that of the 48 lodges in Sossusvlei, at least four tour guides would lose their jobs because personalised guided tours by lodge-owned game-viewer vehicles would no longer be allowed.
She added that the project is not worth it as about 200 tour guides would be losing their jobs compared to nearly 30 staff members operating the project.
Oosthuizen had expressed that setting up generator hubs, ticketing offices, staff facilities, snack vendors, and bar areas would put tremendous pressure on the site itself and already sensitive water reserves.
Last year, environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta stripped NWR of its rights to carry out shuttle services into Sossusvlei.
This concession was then granted to Kandume’s Skey Eye Hospitality and Tours.
Additionally, the ministry had denied any wrongdoing.
In a document dated 29 March, NWR objected to the proposed development.