Tobacco project lights up

14 June 2019 | Agriculture

Years after Swapo's Oshikoto coordinator Armas Amukwiyu and his Chinese partners first started pushing for a N$1 billion tobacco project in the Zambezi Region, cabinet has finally given the green light.

A cabinet resolution indicated yesterday that Namibia Oriental Tobacco had been given approval to lease a tract of land for a tobacco and maize plantation in the north-eastern region.

The resolution also said that the terms and conditions of the project would be finalised through the Cabinet Committee on Trade and Economic Development (CCTED). The company had promised to create 3 000 jobs. Amukwiyu yesterday confirmed the approval of the project, but would not divulge any details as he “was driving”. For years it seemed the project, which is set to use 10 000 hectares of land, had stagnated amid an alleged fallout between Amukwiyu and President Hage Geingob in the run-up to the Swapo elective congress in 2017.

Amukwiyu had stood against Geingob's preferred candidate for the party's secretary-general position, Sophia Shaningwa.





There was a new twist in June last year when it emerged that land reform minister Utoni Nujoma had apparently facilitated a cabinet presentation by the Chinese investors in the Namibia Oriental Tobacco project.

The project has courted controversy since it was first announced about four years ago. Former health minister Bernard Haufiku had vigorously campaigned against the initiative, describing it as a “chemical weapons” project.

He also urged residents of the region to “choose health above toxins”.

“My plea to the youth, who apparently support the planting of chemical weapons in the name of tobacco in that great region, is: Let us choose health above toxins; choose life above death!” he said at the time.

The Affirmative Repositioning movement, as well as a youth forum in Zambezi, had also voiced strong opposition to the project.

Amukwiyu at the time stated that they could move their project to another African country, should they be denied land in the Zambezi Region.

Tobacco farming is booming in countries like Zimbabwe where even small-scale farmers are buoyed by a huge demand for tobacco in China and other parts of the world.

STAFF REPORTER

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