Investment boom on Divundu’s horizon

The Divundu village council has defended its decision to give the greenlight to property developers without the required ministerial approval.

10 June 2021 | Local News

KENYA KAMBOWE

RUNDU

The Divundu village council says it sees nothing wrong with its decision to allow businesses to build in the area despite not having the mandatory ministerial approval, which often takes ages to be granted.

This, according to Divundu village council CEO Athanasius Maghumbo, will go a long way in attracting the necessary investments that will be beneficial for the growth of the village and ensuring that the area does not miss out on economic and employment opportunities.

Due to a lack of service offerings, Divundu residents are forced to commute to Rundu, about 200 kilometres away, to access services such as health, banking, shopping and government offices.

“The residents from this local authority travel each day 400 kilometres to access basic services such as medical, banking and others thus with speedy construction of the shopping complex some of these services will be brought closer and will result in some savings for the residents,” he explained.

Maghumbo added that since 2017, the Divundu village council has sold land to various business entities.

These include two plots for shopping malls, three for fuel retailing, one for a milling plant and three for housing development.

Ministerial approval was granted for the developments but none of them have taken off, except a fuel retailing project which is currently under construction.

According to the last census, Divundu is home to over 5 400 people.

Divundu is ideally placed to serve as a gateway to tourism establishments such as Divava Lodge, Divundu Guest House, Nunda River Lodge, Shametu River Lodge, Rainbow Lodge and Popa Falls Resorts, which draw thousands of tourists annually.

Criticism

Maghumbo’s sentiments come at a time when the village council is accused of allowing Helmsman Holding Group, a company owned by Chinese-born property magnate Stina Wu, to build a shopping mall without the required approval.

“The council approval for construction to start should be seen in light of the above narrative and it would be unfair for us to deny the employment and economic opportunities to the residents whenever there is an opportunity like this one present itself,” Maghumbo said.

While concerns exist that Wu and her partners are risking an investment of about N$55 million in the event that urban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni decides not to approve the land deal at Divundu, the company is going ahead with construction work.

Maghumbo said despite the council awaiting ministerial approval, it had the right to issue a building permit to Helmsman Group to construct a permanent structure on the land.

“A building permit is issued by a council to any entity or individual on application to erect a permanent structure in any local authority area. A building permit does not require ministerial approval,” Maghumbo initially responded.

He added: “Kindly be advised that approval for construction and land sales approval are dealt with under different statutes and thus approval for construction is within the council’s domain while approval of land sales is within the minister’s domain and these two are not interdependent.”

Namibian Sun understands that the ministerial approval for the Helmsman Holding Group land deal is hindered by the fact that in the past four years the minister approved the construction of two shopping malls in Divundu, which failed to get off the ground.

Wu’s local business partner, Chris Shivolo, this week told Namibian Sun that their plans of finalising phase one of their project is hindered by the lack of ministerial approval.

Shivolo said the ministerial approval has taken quite some time.

He explained that they decided to go ahead with the construction without ministerial approval because the Divundu village council had granted them permission to build.

“Normally one would go with the ministerial approval to the bank to get funding; however, for us funding is not a concern and that is why we started with the permission of the council,” Shivolo said.

He revealed that the shopping mall, which is at an advanced stage, will cost around N$55 million.

Controversial discount

The controversy around this project emanated when Helmsman scored a massive discount of over N$20 million when it bought eight erven measuring more than 83 hectares at Divundu.

Helmsman Group was expected to pay N$29.1 million for the land that was initially offered at N$35 per square metre.

However, the company will only pay N$8.6 million after its request for a price reduction was granted.

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