Sand-mining tycoon hits back

07 November 2018 | Environment

Sand-mining tycoon and Ondangwa mayor Paavo Amwele, who mines sand at Ondando village on the outskirts of Oniipa, is unhappy with the environment ministry, which has accused him of operating illegally.

Amwele and Epale district senior headwoman Anneli Sakaria Mbumba have also laid the blame for the sand-mining mess at the ministry's doorstep. They allege the ministry never consulted them about the enforcement of the Environmental Management Act of 2007, which deals with sand mining, among other issues.

Amwele told Namibian Sun when they started mining sand, the environmental law was not yet implemented in the north, and after implementation, the ministry never consulted with them about the way forward.

Following a public outcry over illegal sand mining last year, the ministry enforced a section of the Act which states that a person cannot undertake sand mining without obtaining an environmental clearance certificate (ECC).

Amwele said he applied for an ECC, but the ministry never gave him feedback. The ministry said his application was declined in August.

“Last year when I heard that the ministry was requesting us to obtain an ECC, I went to the ministry at Ongwediva and they appointed a consultant for me to help me apply for the ECC. The ministry never got back to us until today, despite several personal follow-ups I made even at their offices in Windhoek,” Amwele claimed.

“I tried by all means to comply with all the requirements that would enable me to obtain that certificate, but the ministry is just quiet. I have to go ahead with my activities, because they are quiet while they told us that the certificate does not take long from the day one applies for it.”

Amwele said it is personal vendetta against him and his business.

He said the sand pit belongs to him, as he bought it from the land owner, who had approached him with an offer.

He then gave permission for other sand traders to mine sand there.

“That pit belongs to me, but I gave permission to about 20 other sand traders to get sand from there.

“Now the environment ministry only spotted Otto Niimboto Shikomba being implicated in this issue (sic). This is a clear indication that there is a personal agenda and I believe it is also a reason I did not get the ECC.

“They are treating us badly because they never told us anything; they never visited our pit, but all of a sudden we are operating illegally.

“I am not operating there illegally. I bought the land from the land owner with the consent of the Ondonga Traditional Authority and I have all the papers,” Amwele said.

Mbumba confirmed that the traditional authority had given consent for sand mining at that site, but after the resource dwindled, the traders extended the pit, following private negotiations with the land owners.

She said one homestead was relocated.

“The environment ministry never consulted us regarding the issue of sand mining… After the leadership conflict erupted within the Ondonga community, members also took advantage and that is when all these things happened. It is now out of our control.”

Ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda confirmed that Amwele's application for an ECC was declined in August.

He said it was the duty and responsibility of the traditional authority and the sand miners to ensure they complied with the environmental law.

He said when the Environmental Management Act was introduced, the ministry conducted public education sessions with all stakeholders.

“On a number of occasions environment minister Pohamba Shifeta spoke and appealed to all stakeholders to ensure compliance.

“There was even a time in 2016 when he gave a deadline for compliance and they were also informed after that the ministry will do inspections,” Muyunda said.

“It is now the duty of the stakeholders to familiarise themselves with the new law and see how they will comply. We expect them to comply or else face the consequences.”

Environment inspector Ipeinge Mundjulu said sand mining has badly damaged the environment and plans are under way to report offenders to the police.

“These guys have even reached underground water, which was not supposed to be the case.

“This is all because they are operating illegally and without proper monitoring. They have violated the law and they will face the consequences,” Mundjulu said.

The Environmental Management Act makes provision for 25 years' imprisonment, or a fine of N$500 000, or both, for illegal mining.


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