The Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has firmly put his foot down in strongly warning representatives of conservancies from the Erongo and Kunene regions to desist from dividing community members along political, racial or ethnic lines.
He issued the warning at the gathering of North-West Conservancy Regional Chairperson’s Forum that was attended by over 40 delegates from various conservancies that took place in Khorixas.
“To the conservancy members, a conservancy is not a tool to divide the community members along political, racial or ethnic lines but is a vehicle towards rural economic emancipation. This should be very clear to everyone concerned,” Shifeta informed delegates at the workshop that ended Tuesday.
Shifeta revealed his ministry received many complaints from some conservancies about individuals and even conservancy committee members misusing and misappropriating property and finances at the expense of the broader conservancy members and the community at large.
“I want to send a strong warning to those individuals and all those who have that ambition of corruption, mismanagement and maladministration of conservancy resources that they are on the wrong side of the law and that we will leave no stone unturned to bring these individuals to order,” Shifeta warned.
Shifeta urged them to commit themselves to nation building and not indulge themselves in creating conflicts amongst the community members and themselves as conservancy members.
“Developing accountability and good governance in conservancies is one of the most important aspects of the conservancy development and operation,” Shifeta said.
The minister of environment and tourism further said that in order for a conservancy to serve the interest of local residents, the conservancy committee needs to be accountable to those residents.
“Accountability means that the committee cannot take whatever decisions it wants to. It must ensure that its decisions have the support of the majority of residents. If the committee consistently takes decisions that are not in the interest of residents, the members or residents must be able to take appropriate action against the committee,” Shifeta said.
According to Shifeta good governance means that the decisions taken by the committee are open and transparent, the finances are well managed and there is no corruption and conflict of interest in decision-making and distribution of benefits.
Conservancies’ representatives were also informed that poor management of finances in some conservancies is a worrying concern and needs to be improved. Shifeta said that Namibia has gained a worldwide reputation for its innovative approaches of linking conservation to poverty alleviation through the conservancy programme and pro-poor tourism initiatives.
“This programme will continue to provide communities with incentives to manage and conserve their areas and natural resources to unlock enormous tourism development opportunities. Conservancies in our country are benefiting thousands of our rural communities through employment, cash income, social grants, social projects and in-kind benefits,” Shifeta said.
Kunene Governor Angelika Muharukua said that it was crucial that conservancies are run in the interest of their members rather than those small elite.
“Good governance will instil investor confidence, instigate rapid economic growth and ensure financial independence of our conservancies. Good governance standards within conservancies are vital to the achievement of the missions and objectives,” Muharukua advised.
The Kunene governor said she has noted infighting among members in certain conservations which disturbs progress and therefore she urged those who engage in tribal and political utterances to stop that immediately. The following conservancies were represented at the gathering: Torra conservancy, #Khoadi /Hoas conservancy, Uibasen conservancy, /Audi conservancy, !Khoro !Goreb conservancy, Sorris Sorris conservancy, Huab conservancy, Sanitatas conservancy, Sesfontien conservancy, Anabeb conservancy, Ehi-Rovipuka conservancy, Epupa conservancy, Etanga conservancy, Marienfluss conservancy, Okanguati conservancy, Okangundumba conservancy, Okatjandja Kozomenje conservancy, Okongoro conservancy, Omatendeka conservancy, Ombazu conservancy, Ombujokanguindi conservancy, Ongongo conservancy, Orupembe conservancy, Otjambangu conservancy, Otjikondavirongo conservancy, Otjitanda conservancy, Otjiu-West conservancy, Otjombande conservancy, Otuzemba conservancy, Puros conservancy, Doro !Nawas conservancy, Ombombo Masitu conservancy, while from Erongo Region Ohungu conservancy, Tsiseb conservancy, Otjibojo conservancy and #Gaingu conservancy.