Zambezi tobacco project still on the cards

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The highly contested tobacco project earmarked for Zambezi Region, which stirred up diverse opinions when it surfaced two years ago, is still on the cards.

According to Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu, the regional council is now waiting for the Zambezi Communal Land Board to officially pronounce itself on the land application for the planned N$14 billion tobacco plantation in the region.

Sampofu on Friday told New Era that the Zambezi Communal Land Board must yet pronounce itself on whether or not it will grant the certificate for the land to be used for tobacco and maize production. As such, Sampofu said, the project is still on the cards and has not been shelved.

Although there were objections against the land application for the planned tobacco plantation, those opposing the project failed to officially present their objections.

“There were people who objected in March. Those objectors were called in by the Land Board to present their objections, but only one person turned up. It’s now up to the Land Board to pronounce itself whether to grant the certificate or not,” Sampofu said.

He noted that the project is not only meant to plant tobacco, but will also see other crops planted, such maize and vegetables.

“Tobacco is grown from December to March. After that they are going to produce other crops like maize and vegetables. The community in Zambezi Region wants the project. They are not against it. It’s only one man who objected to the project, but when the Land Board called people in, he never turned up to present his objection,” Sampofu remarked.

The governor could not reveal the content of the objections, saying the matter is receiving attention from the Land Board, which is expected to pronounce itself soon.

The plantation project is the brainchild of prominent Swapo Party coordinator in Oshikoto Region Armas Amukwiyu and his Chinese business partners. Namibia Oriental Tobacco applied for the land situated in the Liselo communal area, which falls under the Mafwe Traditional Authority, to grow maize and tobacco on a 10,000 hectares piece of land.

Zambezi Communal Land Board chairperson Regina Ndopu-Lubinda initially told New Era that the Land Board would make its final decision in due course and then forward it to ministerial heads to make the final decision on whether the company should be awarded the land on which they want to set up the N$14 billion project.

In April 2015, former Chinese ambassador to Namibia Xin Shunkang said tobacco produced at the mooted plantation in Zambezi Region is not meant for local consumption, but rather for the Chinese market.

Health Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku at the time publicly opposed the project and called on all health-conscious Namibians to fight it tooth and nail. Amukwiyu responded then saying: “Our constitution allows everybody to express their opinions and the minister is no different. He is part of government. The project will be established through government structures, of which he is part.”

The project obtained environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in 2014.

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