Alweendo needs sharper teeth to fight rich mining companies

THE mines minister Tom Alweendo is trying to make things work in the extractive sector. With all the world’s eyes on Namibia today, Alweendo’s efforts fall short when his decisions are challenged in a court of law.

High Court judge Ramon Maasdorp’s ruling this week that stopped Alweendo from revoking Xinfeng’s lithium mining licence shows that the minister needs legal teeth.

Maasdorp agreed with Alweendo that Xinfeng Investments’ application for a 20-year licence had elements of some plagiarism. Maasdorp said Alweendo had a prima facie case that Xinfeng committed fraud while applying for a licence.

Despite these findings, Maasdrop said Alweendo had no power to revoke the mining licence without express or implied authority under the governing legislation but was required to approach the court for appropriate relief.

This is more like saying if someone breaks into your house armed with a loaded gun and your family is on the verge of being massacred, you do not have to fight the intruder but wait for the police to come.

In the case that you choose to fight the intruder and kill him, then you will be told that you took the law into your hands and committed murder. What the law chooses not to see is that the intruder was not supposed to be in your house in the first place. The law acts blind to the fact that had the intruder not broken the law first by entering a private space, the murder could not have happened.

There are two issues involved here: Alweendo is managing national resources, which should be guarded jealously.

Two, had he opted to approach the courts first without acting, he would have used taxpayers’ money and wasted time because Xinfeng would have stopped working the land to get lithium.

We should not forget that Xinfeng has not dealt fairly in all its activities so far.

There was the case of bribing mines ministry officials to the tune of N$50m. Then there has been the EPL case, in which some Namibian has come forward to claim that he was duped. And the shipping of lithium ore on the pretext of testing.

Of course, all these were not part of the court proceedings, but what do we expect when dealing with a character who has been in all sorts of mucky dealings?

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This leads to the question: what are the mines minister’s powers if he cannot take away what he would have given? It also leads to the thinking that Alweendo needs more and sharper teeth to fight international companies that operate recklessly because they have bags full of money.

Remember that the Xinfeng case is the second loss Alweendo has suffered after the Deep South case involving his decision not to renew the Haib copper mine licence.

These court losses embarrass not only Alweendo but the nation.

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