Simaata sings tobacco praises

Claims Chinese-backed project supports ‘Growth at Home’

21 June 2019 | Agriculture

Secretary to cabinet, George Simataa, says they approved the Chinese-backed Zambezi tobacco project due to the envisaged socio-economic benefits it would bring to the region and Namibia at large.

Simataa’s glowing account of what cabinet thinks the project will be mean for Namibia included that they took cognisance of the fact that the country needs foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost its economy and create jobs.

“Therefore every effort to bring in FDI should be supported,” Simataa said.

“Cabinet approved the application for a right of leasehold from Namibia Oriental Tobacco CC, which was received through the Zambezi Communal Land Board,” he said of the matter that was the subject of consultations with the land board, the Mafwe Traditional Authority, the “project promoter”, and relevant government offices since 2013.

Simataa said it is anticipated that the project will culminate in an industrial development, saying the investors are ready to set up sizable plantations of maize, fodder and tobacco, processing plants for both maize and tobacco and other facilities.

He said the project is anticipated to create 7 120 permanent jobs, as well as temporary jobs during harvesting seasons.

Simataa said the Mafwe Traditional Authority will also be able to set up a community trust fund, which will acquire 10% equity in the project, while the investor will support small-scale farmers with training and buying their products.

“The Zambezi project would ensure 100% local value addition of all its products, in line with the Growth at Home strategy. However, all tobacco products would be exported to the Chinese market and will not be consumed in Namibia.

“The government is of the opinion that projects of this nature need to be carried out to enhance socio-economic development in the country. Cabinet has always been open to appreciate investment proposals that are in the national interest and in line with the national development agenda to create much-needed employment opportunities and to enhance economic growth in the country,” Simataa said.

He said cabinet’s stance is that the leasing and alienation of state land to all investment projects be done in accordance with all relevant laws and procedures.

He said the approved leasing - for 25 years and not 99 years as was reported elsewhere - will ensure “optimal production and maximum yield, which would bring about economies of scale”.

Simataa said the 10 000 hectares will be subdivided into 2 500 hectares each and be utilised on a rotational basis for maize, animal fodder, tobacco and the construction of factories, offices and operational units, such as warehouses, a water reservoir of 60 000 cubic metres, accommodation facilities, a clinic, a school and roads within the plantation.

Simataa said government will ensure that the project promoter complies with all national and international laws, rules and regulations related to tobacco, and ensure that environmental, health and safety standards are adhered to.

Medical bioscience expert André Faul attached to Geo Pollution Technologies, however, earlier this month said neither Geo Pollution nor any other registered interested and affected parties were given access to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, as is stipulated in the Environmental Management Act.

The Act stipulates that registered interested and affected parties be given an opportunity to comment in writing on the assessment report, before this is submitted to the environmental commissioner.



CATHERINE SASMAN