Fuse remains in the oil barrel
Parliamentary inquiry labelled ‘senseless’
08 October 2021 | Environment
ReconAfrica denies that it is now allegedly trying to bribe community leaders with favours and gifts in the form of social assistance to support their search for oil in Namibia's Kavango regions.
Allegedly, the George Mukoya conservancy was asked to compile a list of community members who “need help”. According to a source, a similar request was made to the Muduva Nyangana conservancy.
ReconAfrica's project manager at Rundu, Mundu Kasera, declined to comment on the allegations, although his office staff told this publication that he was the “right man” to talk to.
Kasera quickly cut the conversation short and said the spokesperson, Ndapewoshali Mwanyengwa, would be able to provide further information. She dismissed the allegations as “absurd”.
“We only entered into a co-operation agreement with the Kapingakawale conservancy after they approached us for help, but I will follow up your inquiries,” she said.
During another visit to the area, several community members – especially women working in the fields – expressed concern about the fact that “many politicians” are putting pressure on community leaders (chiefs and councillors) to smother all opposition to oil exploration.
Some questioned an on-site visit last week by the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Natural Resources chaired by former Minister Tjekero Tweya. Residents of the town did not show much interest in the meetings, although some residents of rural areas described it as a “ridiculous” attempt by government to create the impression that the State responded fairly to the complaint that was handed to parliament by the SOUL organisation in Windhoek in June this year.
“This is the same man who as minister illegally seized land in the Mukwe constituency of the Mbukushu communal area. He only gave it up when the court ordered him to do so. So, how will he protect my land rights?” a female resident of Ncaute wanted to know.
The prospect of promising jobs and better living conditions is still being weighed against the possibility of long-term damage to the environment.
According to Max Muyemburuko, chairman of the Regional Conservation and Community Forestry Association for Kavango West and East, it would seem that people employed by, or affiliated to, the civil service generally support the project, while the communities directly affected are opposed to it, especially against hydrofracking.
“I specifically asked one of the ReconAfrica representatives if hydrofracking could damage my fields and trees here at Ncaute,” Mestilde Kudumo of Ncaute Ruzaza said. “He said I do not have to worry - there are no negative consequences and certainly no damage to the trees. But they did not properly explain how it would work with boreholes that run 750 meters under my feet.”
A fellow resident, Veronika Ndara, says she was told the same. She finds the promise hard to believe because horizontal lines drilled over long distances in all directions will, according to her, definitely affect groundwater.
According to Kudumo, a test borehole for the current seismic survey was drilled 60 meters behind her hut. “They came to tell me that they would go through my field and ‘stamp’ it once. And they said they would pay me. That was in September.
“They keep driving through my property and tell me nonsense about government's payment process which takes time. I no longer believe them,” Kudumo said.
Some community members insist they were only briefed on the seismic survey and how it works afterwards.
Chairperson of the Ncaute Community Forest Committee, Elizabeth Kudumo, accuses Tweya of bias. Several people see the public briefings as a ploy to “speak well” of ReconAfrica.
Representatives from three different conservation areas of the Shambyu and Gciriku tribes said the committee was constantly changing their meeting spots. This was clearly done to prevent us from attending the sessions and airing our grievances,” was one interpretation of the alleged tactic.