Businessman Knowledge Katti says he is fully focused on implementing his vision for the sleepy settlement of Kombat, a stance which could see the value of the property skyrocket to more than the N$160 million recently cited.
Katti has already ordered the demolition of shacks at Kombat and moved occupants to houses owned by the mining companies – a decision that he said was in line with his vision to give residents a dignified life in a shack-free town.
In an exclusive interview with New Era this week, Katti said he is currently swimming in a pool of proposals by investors who want to set up shop at the 308-hectare settlement.
Each potential investor would be measured against the benefits they would bring to the settlement – especially in terms of employment creation, Katti explained.
Kombat is home to massive underground water reservoirs, and national water utility NamWater could be among the first to invest at the settlement – with over N$90 million being budgeted for a three-phased water development project.
Katti said another investor, United Bottling Brands, a Namibian registered company with Portuguese and Namibian partners, has proposed to set up a bottling plant in a N$250 million deal that would create 400 indirect jobs.
Katti has come under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks, following revelations that he has slapped a N$160 million price tag on the settlement after government proposed to buy it back from him. Residents of Kombat, with whom Katti held meetings recently, said this week that they want clarity about the future ownership of the settlement, following reports of government advances.
“The meetings we held with Mr Katti brought hope to Kombat, partly because this area has always been owned by foreigners,” the principal of Kombat Primary School, Erica Beukes, said.
“Everybody here is saying ‘Katti must come’.”
Another resident, Trevor Martin, echoed sentiments that residents want to know the fate of the area, amidst reports of government wanting to take over. “Currently we live in good houses and we are not paying anything. We don’t pay rent,” Martin said.
“We hope investors will flock here because currently there is only one general shop and one bottle store serving the entire community.”
Katti refused to divulge how much he bought the mining settlement for – with reports suggesting he paid N$50 million for it.
“How much I bought it for is immaterial. The N$160 million figure is based on the minimum value of what I plan to bring to Kombat in terms of development,” Katti said.
He said government approached him with a proposal to buy Kombat from him, and not the other way round.
Instead of getting the stick, Katti believes he should actually be commended for bringing Kombat into the hands of Namibia, after it changed hands between foreign investors for years. Minerals were first discovered at Kombat in 1850 but actual mining only started 50 years later – in 1900 – when Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL) started copper extraction operations.
After Ongopolo Mining took over from TCL, it was British company Weatherly that took over before another foreign company, Grove Mining of South Africa, got involved.
“The people living at Kombat have literally been living under the ownership of foreigners for 115 years and I, as a Namibian, saw the opportunity and raised capital to bring the settlement into Namibian hands,” Katti, who made his fortune from petroleum exploration ventures, said.
Grove Mining sold Kombat Mine to Manila Investments, in which Katti’s Havana Investments and state-owned Epangelo Mining each own 10 percent. Kombat Copper, a Canadian company, owns the remaining 80 percent.
Kombat Copper had acquired the town from Grove Mining, but Katti’s Havana Investments has now acquired the town from the Canadian firm to all but put the town’s full ownership into the hands of the Namibian entrepreneur. Previously, companies that have carried out mining operations in the area, mainly the extraction of copper, have owned the settlement.
Katti said government, by implication of having been a shareholder in Weatherly, was part of those who sold Kombat to the South Africans through Grove Mining.
“My vision is now to build houses, develop agriculture and revive sport. We have an idea of how the town would look like. Investors are being called to invest and create jobs. I will add value to the town, with or without government’s involvement,” the usually media-shy entrepreneur said.
Debunking suggestions that he approached government with the proposal to sell Kombat, Katti said: “We were continuing with our activities before government itself approached us. I told the representatives that I’m not willing to sell, but if it’s a directive from government I am willing to listen.”
Sections of the public have accused Katti of greed, saying he did not add value to Kombat to warrant the N$160 million he is demanding.
“I paid my money for this. In this country people get fishing quotas for free and sell them for ridiculous money without actual value addition. In my case, at least I bought this property.”