By Hoandi !Gaeb Mariental Old Mutual Namibia is to invest heavily in the flood-prone town of Mariental by constructing a close to N$20-million shopping complex at the town. The announcement was made by the newly appointed Managing Director of Old Mutual Africa, Johannes !Gawaxab in an exclusive interview with New Era. A consultant has already been appointed to carry out a survey to determine the needs of the local business fraternity, as well as the magnitude of the operation. !Gawaxab said the decision to establish a complex of that nature at Mariental has been prompted by the recent floods at the town and his company’s commitment to improving the quality of life for all Namibians socially and economically. “Our social responsibility goes beyond any borders nationally and internationally, hence the decision to assist Mariental and its residents.” He said the investment is aimed at boosting economic development at Mariental and to directly and indirectly contribute to the well being of the thousands of policyholders of the insurance giant in the country. “We are ploughing back what we take out.” !Gawaxab said the idea of setting up a business complex, especially to the eastern part of the town has been welcomed by the majority of business people at the town and has been hailed as economically viable. The eastern part of the town is normally not affected by the floods. He said Old Mutual is already engaged in negotiations with Shoprite, one of southern Africa’s retail giants to also open business at the Old Mutual complex. According to him, other retail outlets that are currently operating nationally have expressed interest in operating businesses there. According to !Gawaxab, a plot has been acquired from the Mariental municipality and the regional authorities have expressed their appreciation for the project, which will help to alleviate unemployment at the poverty-stricken town. Mariental Town Clerk Paul Nghiwilepo confirmed that a business plot has been allocated to Old Mutual, but is awaiting council approval. Nghiwilepo welcomed Old Mutual’s decision to bring economic development to Mariental, saying that after the recent floods a lot of people lost faith in the town and its future. Old Mutual by this move gives hope to the hopeless. Nghiwilepoi confirmed that they held negotiations with Old Mutual’s MD and subsequently contacted many business houses at the town, which indicated that they are ready to move to the Old Mutual complex. “We are stunned by the new development. We would like to see other companies that are currently operating elsewhere to come and invest in Mariental,” he said. According to him, the plot to be allocated to Old Mutual is well situated and suitable for a shopping and office complex. “It is spacious and compares well with business plots, like that of Wernhill Shopping Centre in Windhoek,” he said. Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Mariental Branch of Commerce and Trade and Industry, Marieta Grobelaar, also welcomed Old Mutual’s envisaged complex. She said it is the first development in the eastern part of the town in many years and will definitely boost economic development at the town. “Old Mutual is already sponsoring many of our activities as the Mariental Branch of Commerce and Industry. We are pleased that the company decided to take a lead in developing Mariental and thereby improving the living conditions of the people of the town.” She said Old Mutual can rely on the cooperation of the Mariental Branch of Commerce and Industry. Grobelaar further expressed her dissatisfaction with the state of the Fish River. She called on authorities to clear the river to allow for a smooth flow of water. “It is well to bring development to the eastern part of the town but in the long run if the river is not well taken care of the water may overflow even the railway line, which could result in flooding the eastern part of the town as well.” She called on the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to urgently pay attention to clearing of the river in order to prevent major floods in future.
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