Karas Region Governor, Bernadus Swartbooi and former governor and deputy chief of the /Hai – /Khaua Traditional Authority, Stephanus Goliath, could not contain their joy at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Neckartal dam site. (Photograph by Alie Thaniseb)
It took years of negotiations and months of court battles but the Neckartal Dam, 70 kilometres south of Keetmanshoop, came closer to realisation on 20 September 2013. Speaking at the ground breaking and site handover ceremony, Bernadus Swartbooi, Governor of the Karas Region, said the dam would be a sign of economic liberation for the people of the region who have been longing for development.
“I know the people will do their best and not leave after they receive their first salary and I know they will come to work sober. People from this area should also not only be given employment opportunities, small and medium enterprises, catering businesses and construction businesses should also benefit from this project. This is a national project and people from across the country are welcome to come and work here, but I feel preference should be given to the people of this region. Keetmanshoop should benefit from this project directly.” “We can do quarrying, catering… We have big businesses and we do not only have hands, we have brains as well,” Swartbooi said amidst loud applause from the community. He added that the project is the largest investment the government has made thus far and that the local people should therefore largely benefit from the project. Sharing Governor Swartbooi’s sentiments, Dawid Boois, Councillor of the Berseba Constituency, also emphasised that the local communities should benefit from the Neckartal Dam. “Snyfontein should also benefit from this project and from discussions that we had so far, electricity is one of the things Snyfontein will get as a direct result of this project. Keetmanshoop should also thrive as a result of the dam. I also want to urge the future employees of this project not to ‘touch and go’. You must work. I hear that some people are also thinking about leaving their jobs to come and work at the dam, but keep in mind that this work will only be temporary, so please stay at your jobs,” Boois urged. On his part, the deputy chief of the /Hai-/Khaua traditional authority, Stephanus Goliath expressed his hope that the “dust has settled and that no more court fights will take place.” “I really hope that the dust has settled and now that we are embarking on the construction of the damwall, we must keep a few things in mind: those who are building this dam are making use of the resources under the jurisdiction of the /Hai-/Khaua traditional authority and we believe that there should be some benefit for the people. Salini cannot take these resources without having the /Hai-/Khaua traditional authority in mind.” “Further, I want to tell my people that an opportunity, by nature, only comes once and if we do not take the opportunities coming with the construction of this dam, I do not know what opportunities we will grab. Now is the time to work. Employment will be given to the area and the whole region, so we must work,” Goliath emphasised. Salini S.p.A, an Italian construction company, was re-awarded the tender of the damwall in early August. The company was initially awarded the tender on 28 March 2013 but the decision was challenged in court and the tender was withdrawn. The High Court then instructed the Tender Board to review the tender and subsequently, the Italian firm was re-awarded the tender. The Neckartal Dam project will cost N$2.8 billion and will create 12,000 permanent jobs. Once the dam is completed, it will store water and generate power for a 5000 hectare irrigation scheme. “The Neckartal Dam project, which was conceptualised more than a hundred years ago, has now become a reality, 23 years after Namibia’s attainment of political freedom and independence. The fundamental objectives of the project have not essentially changed from what was conceptualised around 1911 which is systematic harnessing of this river to irrigate vast stretches of arable land. The water will also be used to drive other socio-economic developments in pursuit of Vision 2030 objectives,” said Hon John Mutorwa, Minister of Agriculture, Water & Forestry, at the groundbreaking ceremony. Mutorwa said the government is investing a huge amount of money in the project and therefore demands quality work and value for money. “Let the work begin in earnest now. Sound harmonious working relationships, particularly among employers and employees, must prevail at this project from day one onwards,” he concluded.