By Staff Reporter WINDHOEK A South African based transport company Jowells has reportedly suspended its long-standing contract with Ongopolo Mining and Processing to transport its blister copper and other commodities. The withdrawal, which allegedly took effect last Tuesday, results from Ongopolo’s failure to pay over close to N$1,5 million for services rendered over three months. New Era sources at the transport company at the Ongopolo smelters say the company could no longer commit itself to the contract because the mine appears to have run into financial trouble. It could however not be established how many tons of ore the transport company ferries each month. Of late, the mining leadership is reported to have contracted the services of local business people that are in possession of trucks and other related transportation equipment to bail out the company after Jowells’ withdrawal. Sources told New Era that Government should encourage the Tsumeb Local Authority to claim the transportation contract from Ongopolo instead of allocating it to dealers outside of the town. ” We need the municipality to get in there as a joint venture and subsequent development partner so that it employs local people to run the transport business. We know that the municipality no longer has the income from electricity. Therefore, the transport contract with Ongopolo could serve as additional income. This can only be the best option and right opportunity to alleviate unemployment here. The ball currently is in the court of certain individuals at the mine.” Insiders at the mine say the red lights are flashing at Ongopolo and that the future of the workers is at stake and could be compromised should Government fail to consider yet another bailout. The mine is allegedly indebted to many debtors in the amount of close to N$100-million. Funds that were used by Government to bail out Ongopolo were reportedly depleted a long time ago. In July last year New Era interviewed a disgruntled whistleblower who appealed to Government to investigate alleged corrupt practices involving the purchase of farms and farmland belonging to former Tsumeb Corporation Limited by highly placed executives of Ongopolo Mining and Processing. At the time, Adolph Christiaan Barry stressed that senior executives at the town hid their identities behind companies to buy “peoples'” land at reduced prices. According to him, he personally conducted intensive, in-depth research on various deeds of sale involving large hectares of land in the Tsumeb district, which were reportedly hijacked by predominantly previously advantaged citizens at “ridiculous” prices. Barry said that beneficiaries of the AgriBank farm loans scheme at the town had become prey of land grabs costing them millions of dollars for land that had been donated by TCL to undercover companies. The whistleblower cited that Marine Life Tsumeb company offered the immovable property of portion 52 (a portion of portion 28) of Farm Consolidated Tsumore No. 761 measuring 1 533 596 hectares to him at a price tag of N$1, 762 000.00 whereas the owner of the company purchased the said large portion of land totaling 7 596 990 hectares for a mere N$74 900.00. Documentation in possession of New Era indicates that the latter portion of land was previously donated by Tsumeb Properties (Proprietary) Limited to Marine Life Tsumeb for use for the purposes of aquaculture and horticulture on January 8, 2001. Sources at Tsumeb told New Era last week that the financial situation at Ongopolo creates uncertainty for many workers. Both companies could not be reached for comment at press time.
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