N$102m school project in Chinese firm's hands

The Construction Industry Federation has described the tender being awarded to the Chinese firm as “insane, if one considers our current economic environment with companies downsizing, closing down or being declared bankrupt, and thousands of workers having been laid off”.

25 June 2020 | Education

Kenya Kambowe

KATERE



Long-awaited renovations to one of the oldest schools in the Kavango East Region - Linus Shashipapo Secondary School - have commenced, with the main contractor on the N$102 million project confirmed as China Jiangxi International (Namibia).

The school has a rich history, with a number of ministers, politicians and well-known business personalities having been taught in its classrooms. The Chinese firm, a local subsidiary of China Jiangxi International, which, according to an internet search also has a similar operations in Kenya and South Sudan, among other countries, specialises in building, construction, transport, real estate development, mining, hotels, restaurants, exports and investments. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is funding the project.



Local manpower

China Jiangxi International (Namibia) country representative and manager John Yan Zhuang said yesterday that two local subcontractors have already been appointed at the project.

He added it was difficult, at this stage, to say how many more local companies would be appointed.

“This is because we just started with the earthworks and foundation, and the other subcontractors will still come, such as the aircon subcontractor, sewage subcontractor, electrical and all the others; they will come at a later stage,” Zhuang said.





“A company like ours, we have been in Namibia for a long time and we employ about 80 to 90% local employees, even if the work is done by us.”

In 2016, the then government tender board postponed the awarding a N$1 billion contract for the construction of the prime minister's new offices because of questions over where the budget would come from.

A joint venture between Namibian businessman Vaino Nghipondoka's company Babyface Civils and China Jiangxi International had been recommended by the works ministry for the contract. The project has since been shelved due to a lack of funding.











Millions



The education ministry confirmed to Namibian Sun yesterday that the contract for the Linus Shashipapo renovations is worth N$102 765 061.28.



To date, N$4.4 million has been spent on the project.



“The project commenced on 20 February 2020 and [is] expected to be completed on 19 February 2022,” education ministry spokesperson Absalom Absalom said in an emailed response to questions.







'Insane'



When contacted for comment, consulting general manager of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), Bärbel Kirchner, said: “It is very sad that we still have foreign companies involved in the space where Namibian-owned companies should operate.



“How can this be tolerated when local contractors, without any doubt, have the capacity and the experience, yet are being left by the wayside?”



Kirchner continued: “It is insane, if one considers our current economic environment with companies downsizing, closing down or being declared bankrupt, and thousands of workers having been laid off.



“We need to maintain the capacity in our industry and engage as many people as possible.”



She said the Linus Shashipapo tender award again highlighted the importance of the bill for the establishment of a Namibian Construction Council, will be tabled soon in parliament.



“Simultaneously, there need to be procurement regulations that allow for preferences or set-asides for local contractors. Indeed, when we are actually in need of a targeted industry-specific stimulus package to revive and save our industry, the award of this tender is extremely disappointing, especially as local companies have the required capacity,” Kirchner added.







Immense blow



Namibian Sun reported last week how the local construction industry has suffered an immense blow, with its contribution to the country's economy having dropped from 7.2% in 2015 to a mere 2.9% by the end of 2019.



Kirchner said at the time that half of the 60 000 workers employed in the formal and informal local construction industry had been retrenched.



For years, the renovations at Linus Shashipapo, situated about 130 kilometres east of Rundu, have been talked about, but nothing materialised, subjecting teachers and learners to dilapidated structures.



At one point, learners and parents went to the extent of instigating a boycott.







Best news ever



The project entails replacing blown-off roofs and emergency repairs, among other renovations.



Kavango East education director Fanuel Kapapero said he is happy with the development at the school.



“That's the best news ever because we have waited for too long for the renovation of that school and it has always put us under pressure because the parents and the learners always complained.



“We are really grateful that at last the renovation is being realised,” he said.







Looking back



In 2018, Namibian Sun visited the school and observed classroom ceilings that were ready to collapse at any moment, while there were massive cracks in the walls.



Roofing had also been blown off by the wind and remained unrepaired since 2015.



The school, which accommodates 630 learners, was also faced with an inadequate number of classrooms and teachers, while the hostel, which houses 480 occupants, is reported to have an “unbearable smell”.



The teachers' housing was in a dire state and health officials had declared the structures inhumane and unfit to live in.

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