KEETMANSHOOP – The Southern Electricity Company Ltd (SELCo) has offered 60 percent of shares worth N$36 million to the Hardap and //Karas regions.
However, this offer was turned down by the //Karas Regional Governor Bernadus Swartbooi. He sees no reason why the two regions cannot simply create their own electricity distributor instead of spending millions to acquire shares in a foreign-owned company.
Swartbooi said this during a meeting in Keetmanshoop on the energy situation facing the two regions.
SELCo’s Managing Director Abraham Kukuri said he believed it made perfect sense for Namibia to acquire a majority stake in the company.
He said SELCo would have no choice but to close shop in the event its offer is turned down, adding however that SELCo is however still financially fit to continue business.
Swartbooi said SELCo’s offer was unattractive because the 40 percent stake would still be foreign owned.
“That 40 percent shareholding will give us problems. SELCo cannot demand millions from us while they have built up money in this region … . Even their social responsibility projects are not visible. Why should we pay a South African company N$36million? Why can we not just start our own company?” he suggested.
He said the only challenge with starting a new company from scratch would be to acquire the appropriate experience, but that could be resolved in due course.
“We can ring-fence ourselves and set up our own distribution company. We just need to sit down and sort ourselves out technically. We have a crisis, the time is up for SELCo – they have just told us that they are pants down and we need to ask ourselves how we are going to benefit from their vulnerable state,” he said.
He said there was a critical need for the two regions to have ownership of their own electricity distribution company, a company that would be mindful of the poorest of the poor when it sets tariff prices.
A technical team was appointed to look at how best to address the current energy and electricity distribution crisis in the south. The two chief regional officers of both regions, representatives of Ohlthaver and List Energy and members of the two regional councils will serve on the team.
The team was given two weeks to work out modalities for the way forward and will report back to the regions by the end of April.
Meanwhile, Ohlthaver and List Energy indicated they stand prepared and ready to partner with the two regions in energy development.
“We have a ‘white sheet’ which we can use collaboratively to develop energy in the two regions,” said the Head of Special Projects for Ohlthaver and List, Gero von der Wense, in response to a question on how much they are prepared to invest in the two regions.
Von der Wense said they are eager to venture into bio-gas and solar energy projects.
Meanwhile, Gideon Shilongo, the Chief Corporate Relations Officer of Ohlthaver and List revealed that discussions are currently underway for the company to start a biomass energy station at the company’s Super Farm in the Hardap Region. The station will cost an estimated N$30 million, he said.
Hardap Governor Katrina-Hanse Himarwa indicated that they are yet to see benefits from the Super Farm in the region.
“I do not see any tangible benefits going into the region from Ohlthaver and List Super Farm. I will encourage you to do more besides the alternative energy, there are more ways how you can benefit the region,” she suggested.
The proposed SELCo shares offer comes after a deepening power crisis which has affected Namibia and the SADC region as a whole.
By Jemima Beukes