City of Windhoek undermines Harambee, prevents job creation and halts communication infrastructure
Officers from the Windhoek City Police this week Tuesday forcefully stopped the excavation work done by Paratus Telecommunications for the installation of the Eros extension of the city-wide fiber optic cable roll-out. Roughly twenty employees were actively prevented by the police officers to continue working, leaving them unemployed while the work was interrupted.
Chief Superintendent N Nendongo arrived at the excavation site in Heliodoor Street in Windhoek’s Eros suburb, charging all employees on site that they are in contravention of a letter sent out by the IT department of the City of Windhoek. The Chief Superintendent had a copy of the letter with him but could not produce a court order or injuction, or name the investigating officer working on the case.
When asked on what authority the letter is served, he told the Economist that he was instructed by a Mr Reckliff Kandjiriomuini of the City’s IT department to deliver the letter, to stop the work, and to prevent any continuance on the site.
This was followed later on Tuesday by an affidavit by Mr Kandjiriomuini to the Namibian Police that Paratus is contravening the Local Authorities Act and that they are disrespectful to the City of Windhoek Council. A criminal case, 542.05 2019, was opened against Paratus.
Group Managing Director of Paratus Africa, Barney Harmse in turn told the Economist that Tuesday’s incident was the sixth time that the City Police has interfered in their infrastructure work and prevented them from working under a valid wayleave, authorised by the City itself in October last year.
“The City of Windhoek is undermining Harambee, they are putting people willing to work out of their jobs, and they are trying to prevent Paratus from installing its communication infrastructure,” said Harmse.
Asked about the previous work stoppages, Harmse said Paratus has worked in close collaboration with the City for five years to plan and execute the fibre optic roll-out that will eventually cover most of Windhoek. For each phase of the work, Paratus obtained special permission by means of a so-called wayleave. This has never been disputed, and in fact, the last wayleave has been approved on 05 October 2018.
However, earlier last year, a letter was delivered from Mr Kandjiriomuini to Harmse at the Paratus premises in Prosperita. This delivery was also done by the City Police, arriving with a motorcade, sirens blaring and hazards flashing, a strategy which Harmse ascribes to efforts to intimidate him.
The letter served to inform Paratus that all permissions are revoked and that they had to stop building the infrastructure to bring fiber optic to Windhoek’s residents and businesses. According to Harmse this was only the beginning of the dispute between them and the City, followed by five incidents of blatant harassment by the City Police despite Paratus working under a valid, City-approved wayleave.
The reason for the City’s IT department backtracking on their previous commitments became apparent in January this year, when the department advertised that it has applied for a Network Facilities Licence from the Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). It then transpired that the City has intentions to lay its own fiber network and took a grim view of a private sector company who will be in competition with the City. Harmse said that the City’s application has not been approved by CRAN yet they are preventing the private sector to continue with its own very substantial investments for a fiber network.