Monday 12 April 2021
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What phosphate taught us

Government has been urging the nation to pull in the same direction for quite some time now, but the marine phosphate mining revelations have shown us that those in Government are not pulling in the same direction. It says a lot about the state of our Government when ministers openly fight each other over projects that are “of national interest”. The fisheries ministry and the environment ministry have been keeping Namibians entertained this week, too bad it is during a time when most Namibians are too busy worrying about the empty purse of the nation. There has been talks of camps and cliques in Cabinet but these claims have always been brushed aside, fortunately this time around there is no room to hide – the dirty linen is there for all to see. It makes one wonder how many more projects and programmes resulted in similar situations.

The current rift between the two ministries can be construed as a sign that Namibia is perhaps not ready to give the greenlight to phosphate. This whole back and forth drama between the two ministries is a clear sign of how our Government arrives at decisions and that ministers do not share a common vision. It has also taught us that ministries do not have full faith in each other despite claiming to be one team. The fact that the fisheries ministry doubts the accurateness and judgment of the environment ministry is a good indication of a soccer team in which one player is not comfortable to pass the ball to one of his teammates. This effectively boils down to a lack of teamwork, or maybe the only teamwork one can see in Cabinet is the identical Mercs and BMWs.

It begs the question, do we have ministries that are working in isolation? The two ministries in question are critical for the development of our country because they deal with a huge chunk of our natural resources, therefore a rift between the two of them could have a disastrous effect. The fisheries ministry must make peace with the fact that their counterparts at the ministry of environment are mandated to take care of all our natural resources, be it those on land or in the ocean. On the other hand, the overall mandate to run the environmental affairs of this country should not be misconstrued by those in the environment ministry as a ticket to bully others – proper consultations and due diligence should be adhered to at all times. Government cannot preach unity among the populace and turn a blind-eye to officials, who are failing to sit around one dinner table because of issues known to them only. Yesterday the environment ministry was heavily exposed after it emerged that they awarded an environmental clearance certificate without according the public the opportunity to make their input. The secrecy in which the process was carried out is partially to blame for the negative reception phosphate mining is receiving in this country.

Namibians are left to scrape for information while the officials have it locked up in their cozy offices. Because of this, government has no grounds to accuse the public of blindly opposing marine phosphate mining.  Commissioner Teofelus Nghitila’s statement that he should not be held liable for anything that might go wrong raises a lot of eyebrows. Sir, please tell us who we should hold accountable then? Your minister perhaps? The statement gives birth to fears that Nghitila himself is not entirely convinced that the conditions he laid out will be fully effective. And if that is the case, is it fair for the rest of us to have faith that all shall be well? As we await for the actual marine phosphate mining activities, it is the hope of many Namibians that the entire process leaves a minimal trail, but at the same time we must also be forgiven for expressing our reservation – simply because of the secret nature that shadowed the process from the start.

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