Waterfront controversy continues

Safari Investment’s N$400 million Platz am Mer Waterfront Development Project in Swakopmund is once again the centre of attention, after it came to light that the Offices of the Permanent Secretary and the Ombudsman are also keeping a close eye on it.

A letter from the Permanent Secretary’s office, dated 2 February 2015 to the town’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Eckart Demasius, states that the Namibia Planning Advisory Board (NAMPAB) has delegated the Chief Town and Regional Planner to familiarize himself with the current situation.

This followed after a Swakopmund community group, Paddock Gardens Trust, wrote a letter of complaint to the line ministry. In the letter a meeting between NAMPAB, Swakopmund Municipality, the developer, the owner, Paddock Gardens Trust and other line ministries is requested for 23 February 2015 (letter in namib times’ possession).

Last week Friday namib times reported that the mayor of Swakopmund, Mr Juuso Kambueshe, denied that such a meeting took place. Representatives of Paddock Gardens Trust (PGT) this week, however, informed the newspaper that the said meeting indeed took place.

According to them the Mayor did the welcoming speech and then excused himself from the meeting. According to PGT the Municipality did not attend the meeting, despite the advance notice and the presence of NAMPAB Chairman and Board members, who travelled all the way from Windhoek. NAMPAB representatives were also denied entrance to the building site, when the delegation went there for a site visit, says the PGT.

Controversy on this project kick-started during 2010 and concerned residents’ main distress is the fact that the correct procedures were allegedly not followed, and they clearly state that they are not against development, nor job creation.

Documentation in the newspaper’s possession show that on 12 April 2012, at an Ordinary Management Committee Meeting, it was noted that, in order for the developer to commence with earthworks, “special permission is required from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. They also need to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with an assessment by a qualified marine engineer, because any earthwork/ construction of groins or jetty may impact upstream/up-current beaches and developments.”

The Paddock Gardens Trust (PGT) claims the developer did not comply with this conditions, and thus, the municipality has permitted Safari Investments to proceed in direct conflict with a Council resolution. They also claim that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources have reiterated they never gave relevant approvals.

The community group further states that the developer “was (and continues to be) unable to submit proof of compliance with all relevant legal aspects, as referred to in the agreement between them and the Municipality, in order for the building plans to be approved. During July 2012, twenty-three members of the public submitted objections to a building height relaxation application for the Waterfront development and according to PGT it was only presented to the Council on 27 May 2014.
According to them, this ensured that the public’s opportunity to follow standard statutory procedure, to make consequent appeal to NAMPAB, was denied.

Furthermore PGT states that on 31 July 2013 the Municipality’s General Manager Engineering Services noted that he “was instructed to leave the building plan application until such time that the Ombudsman and the Attorney General have sorted out all outstanding legal issues.” Despite the lack of such resolution, the building plans were apparently approved during July 2014.

As per the PGT the municipality denies a request from the public to see the approved building plans.

A letter from the Ombudsman’s Office (dated 4 December 2012) indicates that a formal investigation will be launched and also informing the CEO of the “most flagrant breaches of the law.”

The newspaper did send a questionnaire on this issues via email to the Mayor, asking him to clarify the issue of the meeting on 23 February, and also to provide proof of the building plans. He was also asked if he was aware of the letter from the Ombudsman’s Office to the CEO and if an official investigation is ongoing.

When going to press, the Mayor did not respond on the questions, but it was confirmed that he was busy with the funeral arrangements of the late Regional Councillor and Member of Parliament, Germina Shitaleni.