By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK History was made this week when a number of stakeholders and players in the lucrative construction industry met to form a steering committee in preparation for the establishment of the Namibia Construction Council. The meeting was held on Wednesday under the auspices of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication by more than 20 representatives from big and small entities in the construction sector. “It is encouraging to see that past efforts to establish our own legal construction council to the benefit of the country and the region are finally coming to fruition. It is high time that the construction fraternity get together to establish such an umbrella body in which working together will determine the success of the industry. This effort and process I consider as part of nation building, unity, cooperation and reconciliation among the country’s contractors,” said the minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Joel Kaapanda, in his welcome. The minister recounted how historically the construction industry has been the exclusive domain of white Namibians. “Today, we are taking an important step in cementing unity and cooperation among all our building contractors. This time around, we need to establish a national body representative of all construction entities in the country. You need to speak with one voice to resolve the many critical issues and problems collectively and not one-sidedly. Your industry plays a pivotal role in the physical development of this country in achieving our goals under Vision 2030,” the minister said. His vision is that the envisaged construction council can become a formidable force in the infrastructure development of the country. “It is imperative that contractors pool resources to redress the inequalities of the past in order for the council to become a strong national and regional legal body. I am convinced that as a well-structured and functional organization, the council will grow in strength to the benefit of all. When legalized, the entity will operate as a national entity that can be formally joined by all Namibian contractors, big or small. A Bill to this effect is soon to be tabled in the National Assembly,” Kaapanda indicated. He warned contractors not to use the proposed council to destroy the industry, but to work hard together and cooperate in the spirit of reconciliation. “You must not work against each other. Work professionally together and avoid at all costs conflicts that can lead to the demise of the council. My ministry will do everything possible to assist the council and to create a conducive environment to the benefit of it. The success of the body will be to the benefit of the country,” the minister said encouragingly of the council, which has already been approached by the Germany Association of Builders for partnerships. Namibia was last year represented at a Southern African Regional Construction Industry Council revival meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, by professor Karl Schloesser and Esteria Nasheya, the Director: Transportation Infrastructure Management in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication. “At the meeting, it was discovered that there exists a lack of national councils in most countries of the region and that those who have such councils are not getting adequate support for their activities from governments,” said professor Schloesser on behalf of the Namibian delegation. A local council has become a necessity due to the discovery that tenders worth millions of dollars are yearly awarded to foreign contractors to the detriment of Namibians. “Hence, the need for a local construction council to ensure home-grown contractors unite under a national body to benefit from the exchange of industry discourse, access training, level the playing field in terms of access to credit as well as benefit from twining arrangements,” the minutes of a meeting between contractors and the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication that was held on October 21, 2005 partially reads. This week’s effort to establish the council is one of many since 1994. “Several other attempts to constitute this forum in the past only resulted in a small select group of individuals. Therefore Namibia could not fully harness the national benefits through the pooling of resources, access to training and the development of critical mass of strong small and medium size enterprises and their participation in economic activities,” the minutes of that meeting stated. The steering committee that has been tasked to draw up an interim constitution for the council before the end of next month consists of professors Karl Schloesser and Renate Schmidt, dr Hina Muashekele, Gervasius Enkara, Asteria Nasheya and Fernando Vahekeni.
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