Graft suspects flirt with chief

06 February 2014 Author  

front Graft 07 febTwo young businessmen have been flirting with Ovahimba Chief Hikuminae Kapika to win his support for the construction of the Baynes Hydro Power Plant along the Kunene River. Many regard Chief Kapika as the main obstacle to the dam construction project that Government desperately wants to get off the ground. Kapika has been at the forefront of the protests against the building of the dam at Orokawe situated in the Baynes Mountains. He has received considerable support mainly from people in western countries who oppose the dam supposedly in the name of protecting and preserving minority cultural heritage.

 

However, with the arrival the two businessmen Mervin Hengari and Justice Tjirimuje on the scene, it appears as if the idea of the Baynes project has enjoyed a revival.

The softening of attitudes might increase the likelihood that the project might move forward.

Hengari and Tjirimuje who are both due to go on trial on charges of corruption in connection with the Neckartal Dam tender (See separate story), have now made it their personal mission to bring Chief Kapika on board.

In an interview on Wednesday afternoon, Hengari described his rationale for approaching the chief as being proactive because they engaged Kapika on the importance of the construction of the power plant.

“With elders one cannot just show up and present one’s case and go about one’s business. One needs to take time to do things in a more traditional manner that they are more likely to respond to,” Hengari said.

In his assessment, people had misinformed Chief Kapika about the details surrounding the inclusion of his people during the construction of the dam and the ramifications thereafter.

“We had to shatter some of the myth’s he genuinely believed, one of them being that his people would lose their land completely and that everything would be under water once the dam is built,” he said.

“As young Namibians we felt a responsibility to make him understand why he should cooperate with the Government on such an important national project,” he said.

The businessmen appear to have gone to great lengths at their own expense to convince the Ovahimba chief to allow the construction of the hydro power plant. They have even taken eight of Kapika’s representatives on a familiarisation trip to China.

The fully paid trip to China raised many suspicions, one of them being that Hengari and Tjirimuje were playing middlemen between the community in the area and a Chinese company.

The Chinese company has apparently actively positioned itself to secure the tender once the construction receives approval.

However, Hengari completely denied working on behalf of, or with, any Chinese company.

He stuck to his guns and stressed that the trip had merely aimed to showcase the advantages of the hydro power plant to community members.

He confirmed that they took eight people to China last year, and that he regarded the trip as a success because they felt they had accomplished what they set out to do.

Hengari however, was not prepared to divulge how much they spent on the trip and remarked that it was difficult give fixed amount for the investments they had made so far.

In his view, it was perfectly normal for them to have an interest in seeing the dam constructed as businessmen whose business would benefit from the electricity that the dam would generate.

“I am a Namibian businessman involved in construction, why should I not show interest in national construction projects?” he questioned.

Apart from the trip to China, sources said that Hengari and Tjirimuje bought a car for Chief Kapika as part of the efforts to soften his stance on the matter.

Hengari labelled this as a blatant lie, remarking that the Chief makes use of local transportation to get around.

Chief Kapika genuinely seems to have softened his attitude towards building the dam.

He has reportedly engaged in consultations with Government, with the intention to surrender in the fight against the dam if he receives official recognition as Chief.

Knowledgeable sources say Kapika has already spoken with Secretary General of the Swapo Party Nangolo Mbumba, and now wants a meeting with President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

These events have caught the attention of DTA President McHenry Venaani who has reportedly become nervous that he might lose the support of the chief, who is DTA supporter, in this year’s of elections.
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