A prime piece of land called White Sands along the Kavango River in Kavango East in Bwabwata National Park, opposite Popa Falls, was recently handed to a South African national in a development that has ruffled some feathers among the San community at Mut’jiku, who used to run a community campsite on the property.
Volker Grellmann, a revered figure in the Namibian tourism sector, used to operate a hunting camp at White Sands that created numerous jobs for members of the San community at Mut’jiku, before he left the area because of undue interference from a local chief. Since then,
White Sands fell into an advanced state of disrepair and jobs evaporated overnight. It has for years not enjoyed its glory years of yesteryear, when hunters and eco-tourists flocked to the area.
But John Ndemba, who serves as the enterprise officer of the Kyaramacan Association, which manages income from tourism activities in the area including the N//goabaca campsite at White Sands, says contrary to reports from some disgruntled members of the San community, White Sands was not sold to a South African national, who is strictly leasing it for tourism purposes. “We did not give him that land. It’s the government that felt there is a need for development in that area and through the ministry of environment it put out a tender to anyone who is able to develop something in the area. Nobody sold the land; it went through a legal procedure of the ministry of environment to enable that operator, who is currently developing the area into a lodge. This happened during our old Kyaramacan Association Committee, they are the ones who nominated this operator who took over the area,” explained Ndemba.
The Kyaramacan Association represents San residents at Mut’jiku in Bwabwata National Park, where unemployment is rife. But since 2006, it has been ofﬁcially recognised by the ministry of environment as the legal entity representing all the people living inside the Bwabwata National Park.
Kyaramacan manages income from tourism activities (the community campsite and a small lodge), from trophy hunting and the sale of devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), a plant sold internationally to reduce pain and fever. Community members that have been passing by the campsite got curious and worried after a security guard at the closed gate at the area, which has now been fenced off by the operator who is still not known to many including New Era, had been heard telling visitors that White Sands is now a restricted area and off limits to visitors.
“We haven’t sold the land, we work with different ministries and a lot of procedures including for the ministry of environment. The guy who got the tender to the area – it is his private business, but the benefit in the form of fees will go back to the community for the period that he will be operating from that area. The tender has a certain period that he will need to operate at the N//goabaca camp,” Ndemba further told New Era.
He added that the camp is being upgraded and a lot of development is going to take place at the area, including the construction of a lodge.
New Era further spoke to Bonny Kahare, the chief administrative officer of the Kavango East regional governor’s office. He said he was also trying to get the right information concerning the legal status of White Sands, because he was also informed it has been sold.