Journalist Turns Successful Miner

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By William J. Mbangula Otjovanatje Theo Ekandjo, a journalist turned miner, believes that there is nothing impossible in life. When he left the NBC six years ago to become a fulltime manager of his stones mining company, Ongaka (Pangolin) Slates cc, few people gave him the benefit of the doubt to succeed. But despite all the pessimism shown by his detractors, Ekandjo has soldiered on to make his mark on the business map of Namibia as a small miner. “At the beginning it was very difficult to market our products because we had no previous reference for our work. When I happened to approach someone to market our products, heshe would always want me to show examples of my previous work. It was the beginning and there was nothing to show but as soon as we established ourselves, we could go anywhere to market ourselves,” he told New Era. In 2001 Ekandjo resigned from the NBC at Oshakati to pursue his long cherished ambition of becoming a stones miner. Some people were asking him whether he had really made up his mind to leave formal employment to become a miner. They asked him: “Where have you seen someone selling stones?” Ekandjo told New Era that what he is doing is not new in the world of modern technology and innovative techniques. He has seen it happening in Namibia itself, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. After discovering the place where the mining could take place, he approached the relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Mines and Energy and traditional leaders to get mining rights in and around Otjovanatje village in the Ruacana constituency. Having obtained all the necessary approval, his next step was to find someone who was knowledgeable about mining. “You know I had a brilliant idea but no previous knowledge of mining. As a result I was forced to look around for potential miners who could help me out. I even went to the Valombola Vocational Training Centre to find out whether there is anyone with such technical know-how and skills,” he said. Luckily enough he came across the late Sackaria Jeckonia who had previous experience in mining and building with stones. Ekandjo’s first reference case of his work was what he did for the late Andreas Nekwaya (Kuthilandjeko)’s business, at the house of Agribank Manager John Nekwaya and at the offices of the Oshana Regional Council. “When I am no more, I want to be remembered as having done some of the work you see around this lodge. Some people may not remember me well as a broadcaster but I want to be remembered on the basis of the flooring of this entire surface of this business complex and many other places ,” Ekandjo proudly noted. He was referring to the posh Outapi Town Lodge of Negumbo Amadhila where he showed this reporter part of his work. The entire surface of the lodge covered with stones he supplied. Having established himself in selling stones, Ekandjo now has many examples to show of not only his work but also to prove his detractors wrong. It is no longer the difficult time six years ago when he could not show anything done by his business. Amongst his many examples are stone tiles, slates and wall cladding at various places such as at Cosdec Ondangwa, Ongwediva Elcin Church, Ontananga Church, the Ondangwa Town Lodge of Ronnie Negonga, Onyeka (Oshipumbu) Church, the FNB building at Opuwo, the Institute of Open Learning (IOL) at Ongwediva, Onguta Elcin Church, and many bars and private houses throughout the northern regions. More than 200 places have been supplied with his products so far. “These stones are very ideal for classroom floors since they are durable and everlasting. With these stones you won’t see potholes in classrooms or any other surfaces as is the case at many buildings nowadays. I discussed this matter with the Ministry of Works to provide such material to them. They have expressed interest in the matter and I am still waiting to hear from them.” Ekandjo’s mining activities have provided employment to 13 permanent and six casual staff. There are those who are quarrying at an open pit at Otjovanatje. This is a labour intensive operation involving manual activities such as digging stones with crowbars and spades. The stones are later collected with a truck and taken to the plant at the Oshakati-Ruacana-Kamanjab T-junction some 20 kilometres from the mine. At the plant there are those who sort out and pack the different types of stones (multi-colours) into certain categories in accordance with customers’ preferences, cutting stones into different sizes of tiles and packing them into specific square-metre groups for immediate selling. The stones can be used for different purposes such as flooring, wall padding (both interior and exterior) and even for putting up a building. One of the main challenges at the quarry now is to find mechanised technological equipment, which may speed up the process of mining. This will enable him to meet the high demand of customers. Only recently, he received a challenging customer demand to supply 100 square metres of stone tiles at Ongwediva shopping centre presently under construction (he could only supply 40 square metres) and also to supply Richmond Investment in Windhoek with 300 square metres every month. He was forced to turn down the order due to lack of modern machinery to supply stones in large quantities. Some of his customers are from Okahandja, Outjo and Opuwo. “I have always been a believer in the saying: ‘Where there is a will there is a way.’ As everyone can see the demand is overwhelming,” said Ekandjo.