‘Kavango not ecologically sensitive’ - Sindila Mwiya

29 January 2021 | Environment

Windhoek • Frank Steffen

In what appears to be a typical case of the pot calling the kettle black, the local advisor to the oil exploration company Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica), Dr Sindila Mwiya, responded in a most disrespectful and rude manner to questions addressed to him by the chairman of the Kavango East and West Regional Conservancy & Community Forestry Association, Max Muyemburuko, accusing the latter of being a lackey of overseas experts and stakeholders as well as sarcastically criticizing the environmentalist of “behaving as if you are the spokesperson for the Office of the Environmental Commissioner or MEFT”.
“Leaner (sic) to respect your own people first and their great wisdom in local knowledge…” Mwiya advised Muyemburuku on Tuesday, whom he portrays as an opportunist who is attempting to solicit additional donations from abroad while abusing the Okavango project for his purposes.
In sometimes poor English he arrives at the conclusion that the Kavango region is not ecologically sensitive: “... the non-existence [of a] so-called sensitive environment ...”
While Mwiya, as consultant of ReconAfrica, in his mail repeatedly accuses Muyemburuku of acting in the interests of foreigners, Mwiya himself seems to have forgotten that this accusation would apply to him too in principle.
Mwiya has repeatedly acknowledged his role as ReconAfrica's project advisor, namely as director of the consultant firm Risk-Based Solutions cc (RBS), which promotes itself as technical specialist in oil, gas, mineral and energy exploration. In that capacity, he had previously carried out an environmental impact study for the exploration license and applied for a permit. Currently he is responsible for the application of an environmental impact certificate for the purpose of oil production (by foreigners) at a later stage.

Legality questioned
All environmental impact studies should legally be carried out by "independent" specialists or consultants. In the case of Mwiya, there seems to be a conflict of interest, as he did not seek the opinions of opponents and advocates without bias, as he has already expressed his opinion that the Kavango area is not an ecologically sensitive area.
In his letter, he repeatedly addresses the poverty of the population, who he says are entitled to make money through this investment. However, he does not provide any details and therefore the numbers and expected income remain unknown.
Instead, he reacts insultingly to the concerns expressed by Muyemburuku about protected and unique game as well as the already battered forests, saying “It is really sad to see this so low level of ignorant environmental advocacy that you are displaying 9sic)”.
While Muyemburuku was concerned about possible deforestation, Mwiya downplayed and ignored that context by simply stating that no forests would be cleared to build roads.
Mwiya’s independence and his approach are further questioned, as he makes it impossible for registered stakeholders like Andy Gheorghiu to participate in his lectures and public discussions via electronic media. He thus seems to evade informed questions from specialists by following the principle of “what happens in the Kavango, remains in the Kavango”.
Mwiya is quite clear about this view, in the process having no qualms about dismissing even the interests of the local San population.