Lands minister to decide on tobacco project

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The Zambezi Communal Land Board chairperson Regina Ndopu-Lubinda said the board has already made recommendations to the Minister of Land Reform, Utoni Nujoma, on whether to grant approval for the land to be used for the planned tobacco and maize plantation in Zambezi.

This was his response on the progress made regarding the highly contested N$14 billion tobacco project earmarked for the region, which stirred up diverse views when plans for the scheme surfaced two years ago.

Ndopu-Lubinda told New Era yesterday the Zambezi Communal Land Board has finalized the process of objections for the planned project but refused to share the recommendations they made.

“We are done. We already sat with the objectors in March. We then deliberated and made the recommendations, which we submitted to the minister in March. We can’t share the recommendations because he has the final say, since he is the decision-maker,” she stated.
She said there were in fact three objectors, but only one turned up in March during the hearing.

Among the three, she said, the Ministry of Health and Social Services was the one that attended and presented their objections.

“It was not one person who objected but three. It’s now up to the minister to approve or disapprove our recommendations,” she clarified.

During 2015, the Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku publicly opposed the project and called on all health-conscious Namibians to fight it tooth and nail.

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 10 000 hectares.
In April 2015, former Chinese Ambassador to Namibia Xin Shunkang said tobacco produced at the mooted plantation in Zambezi is not meant for local consumption but rather for the lucrative Chinese market.

Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu said the project aims not only to plant tobacco, but also other crops, such as maize and vegetables.

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

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