By Matheus Hamutenya
Oranjemund — Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba says the mineral resources of the country, such as its diamonds, have been exploited by others for too long, and thus those that have done so should now “give back more”.
Speaking at a fundraising gala dinner held at Oranjemund on Friday, Pohamba said that for over eight decades Namibia has seen its resources controlled by foreign companies, which meant that Namibian resources did not directly benefit its people, who continue to languish in poverty.
He singled out the wealthy Oppenheimer family as one of those that have exploited Namibian resources for their own selfish benefit. Pohamba indicated that the family have for long exploited Namibian diamonds and enriched themselves and their country at the expense of Namibia’s people.
He further said that it is evident that those exploiting Namibia’s mineral resources are reluctant to share their wealth, citing the Rosh Pinah-Oranjemund road as an example of testimony that the exploiters think it’s a waste of money if they invest in the country. He recalled an unpleasant encounter with Nicky Oppenheimer at State House, while he was still president, saying he had asked the South African tycoon and former chairman of De Beers diamond mining company to build a road between the two towns, but Oppenheimer had refused point-blank and told him that his company was already paying taxes.
Pohamba said Oppenheimer’s response left him “emotional” and he asked him to leave his office, as he had felt insulted.
“I said Nicky, your parents have been exploiting our resources and it’s now time to put up a road, but he told me he was already paying taxes,” he said, adding: “His family took the resources of this country and when we ask him to set up a road, he says government must do it, that’s an insult.”
He said Oppenheimer’s response was evidence that he was raised not to answer to a black person when taken to task.
Pohamba then turned to the general manager of Namdeb, Riaan Burger, urging him to convince his colleagues to avail more financial resources to help develop the town and especially to replace its dilapidated infrastructure.
He further called on everyone to support the president and his ministers to implement the Harambee Prosperity Plan for the good of the country.
He was however adamant that although the Harambee plan calls for everyone to pull in the same direction to develop the country, those that have taken and continue to get a large chunk of Namibia’s wealth must give more.
“Yes, we are altogether, but those who exploited this country should make more resources available,” the former head of state hammered home his point.
Pohamba also highlighted government’s progress in ensuring that resources benefit the Namibian people, noting that government has since independence pushed for ownership of the mines and now has a 51 percent stake in Namdeb, which he says allows Namibia to have a say in how its diamonds are managed.