Recon, Kawe villagers find consensus

By Hilary Mare

HAVING faced concerns from some residents groups regarding oil and gas exploration near Kawe village in the Kavango East region, ReconAfrica has now found common ground with the immediate residents of the drill area who have given the green light for the project.
This boost follows the government’s full support of the project which promises to catalyse development if oil is found to be present in the exploration area.
Recently, UK-based Sky News reported that numerous villagers, including one family headed by Andreas Mawano, had been pushed off their land and appeared ‘powerless’ to take the oil exploration company on.
On the contrary, Mawano has refuted these claims, affirming that the land where ReconAfrica had set up to drill did not belong to him despite him having temporarily settled on it. He had done so as the land he had been allocated by the Kawe village committee appeared to be on low ground and prone to flooding in the rainy season.
“It is the journalists that came and suggested the idea that I had been displaced off my land. I was allocated a place to stay by the village committee down the road but I self-moved and settled on this land because there, where they gave me, is depressed land which holds water.
“When I moved, no one came to move me back and say that I had settled in a place where I was not allocated. I also did not tell anyone that I had moved because I thought I could move anywhere since I did not know where the land allocated to me ended. The committee also never gave boundaries and they never pointed out to me that I had moved to a place that was earmarked for an oil project,” he said, adding that he was keen to see the project prevail because it potentially could bring benefits to the people of Kawe.
“Before the project started, the headman informed me that there was an oil exploration project to be done but I was waiting for the equipment to come so that I can further talk to the headman on how we must move forward. I am willing to see the project move forward because we are going to get much more out of it,” he further explained.
Mawano resides closest to the drill site; land which the headman of Kawe says was reserved for the exploration project and not previously allocated to the villagers.
Recently, representatives of the Kawe village committee reiterated that while they do not state where the portion of land given to residents starts and ends, they had not allocated any villager the land where ReconAfrica had been given the permission to drill.
However, Confidente understands that ReconAfrica a has taken a deliberate decision not to remove Mawano from the land but would provide two water boreholes for him and surrounding residents once the first phase of drilling is complete.
“Nearby villagers, who struggle with water, are allowed to enter the site and get water they need for their own use,” ReconAfrica said.
The company was recently quoted insisting that it had gone beyond what was required of them under Namibian government law in consulting people in the Kavango region.
“ReconAfrica completed numerous consultation sessions directly in the communities. Specifically, major public awareness campaigns on seismic data acquisition were conducted in East and West Kavango and in Windhoek, which is not the norm for oil and gas or mining companies.
“Numerous community meetings took place throughout the region, and comments and input were extended beyond the initial deadline to allow more time for input from registered stakeholders. This has gone above and beyond any consultation requirements by the Namibian government,” the company said.
ReconAfrica was awarded a subsurface petroleum exploration licence by the Ministry of Mines and Energy to conduct exploration activities on more than 35 000 square kilometres of the Okavango Basin.
The company has also been given the go-ahead by the government of Botswana to continue with its operations in the Okavango Basin.