Investor confidence up in Tsumeb
> Magreth Nunuhe
Tsumeb – The copper town of Tsumeb in northern part of Namibia is booming with the rise of big business and an increase in investor confidence.
According to Stella Imalwa, the Strategic Liaison Officer at the Tsumeb Municipality, business is diversifying in Tsumeb and the town has been attracting more business in the past few years.
“Yes, there was a time when Tsumeb almost came to a standstill and everything was dependent on mining, but now the town is flourishing with more diversified business,” said Imalwa.
Investment and business development
This year Nedbank and Auas Motors opened branches, while a new solar panel supplier outlet also opened its doors to the public.
The town now boasts of two shopping malls – the Tsumeb Mall owned by a town resident that opened in 2014, while the Shoprite Mall has been operating for more than five years.
She said informal market is also flourishing with fruits and vegetables that many retailers and individual entrepreneurs obtain from Farm Namfo, some seven kilometres north of Tsumeb.
The farm supplies fresh fruits and vegetables on wholesale at reasonable prices and the municipality intends to open new stalls for fruits and vegetables at the town.
“Tsumeb is paradise town where we plant everything from green pepper, onions, tomatoes, sweet corn, spinach, guavas, mangoes and papayas. They even plant in their own backyards,” boasted Imalwa.
Imalwa said that Dundee Precious Metals, previously known as Namibia Custom Smelters, which produces blister copper from imported copper concentrates, also gave the town a lifeline with the establishment of a community trust, which has invested in the town and helped fund Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Dundee Precious Metals has assisted 72 SMEs with grants of over N$2 million and also donated money and equipment to schools, laboratories, computers and sports on an annual basis, she disclosed.
Other mining companies that are also making a difference to the lives of Tsumeb residents are the Tchudi, an open pit copper mine under Weatherly Mining Namibia which started operating there in October 2015 and the B2Gold Mine, all which created a lot of employment opportunities.
The Ohorongo Cement near Otavi, which is one of southern Africa’s most modern cement plants, has also seen a lot of Tsumeb residents acquiring jobs through the venture.
This year, Tsumeb municipality handed over 182 houses to the elderly who have stayed in the municipal houses for more than 20 years, while about 280 more residents are expected to also benefit from the gesture.
The second phase is to involve 100 houses for people paying between N$500 to N$600 in monthly instalments for their bonds.
According Imalwa, Tsumeb residents who have lived in the houses for more than 20 years and do not have outstanding debts qualify to have the houses transferred to their names.
“They only have to pay for transfer cost. Many of them were TCL (Tsumeb Corporation Limited) mine employees who accumulated debt after the mine closed,” explained Imalwa, saying that as a result many were not able to pay the instalments.
She said that consequently the Tsumeb Municipality CEO, Archie Benjamin, wrote a letter to the line ministry – the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (now Ministry of Urban and Rural Development) for the instalments to be written off.
“There was also an incentive that for every dollar paid towards debt, the municipality would settle half of that amount. Council also went out of its way and introduced incentives to senior citizens where their monthly bills were subsidised every month with N$22.32 (or N$2656.20 per year),” Imalwa continued to say.
Further to that, the municipality’s finance department has proposed to the Council to consider all properties valued under N$30 000 to be exempted from paying rates and taxes.
“Most of the N$30 000 houses are from the Soweto location. These are old people who have been living there. It is to help those who can economically not sustain themselves. They received the houses but are struggling to pay with pension money – even with the increase in pensions, it is still difficult,” she said.
Imalwa said that management of informal settlements is a huge challenge because of the influx of people into the town seeking employment.
She added that before that, there were only two townships – Nomtsoub and Soweto, but now there is the informal settlement called Kuvukiland, which was supposed to be a new settlement to bring people out of the crowded Soweto.
Thirty families were initially settled there, but news spread like wild fire as people heard that there was “free land” being dished out, which led to the population increasing from 2000 to 9000 in 11 years from 2000 to 2011.
“Most of the people came from the North and North East of the country,” she said.
However, Imalwa maintained that land grab was not an issue in Tsumeb, but the problem was with people settling in the mining areas where it could pose a danger to their health.
“They are supposed to move out. The Weatherly Mine has been negotiating with the community because the ground is unstable. It is also huge challenge to provide basic services. The Municipality set up nine water-points but there are no toilets at all. The municipality built VIP toilets as a pilot project for the 30 families that were initially settled there, but those who came to settle illegally took over the toilets. Council has been trying to advise the illegal settlers to register with the Shack-dwellers Association to raise funds and build proper houses,” she added.
She said that the municipality’s engineering department was however considering adding more water-points and toilets in Kuvukiland in the next financial year.
Imalwa said that Tsumeb was not recipient Mass Housing initiative rolled up by government to the huge housing backlog in the country, although they applied for funding.
“But it is also true that the majority of poor people cannot afford the (Mass Housing) houses as they do not cater for the low income bracket,” she pointed out.
When it comes to roads, Imalwa said that most streets in Tsumeb are tarred with the exception of the rocky Kuvukiland area, where the municipality is busy with road surfacing and cost analysis.
“There are plans in the new financial year to upgrade roads in Nomtsoub and the remaining streets that are not tarred. We are considering interlocks in some areas and proper tarred roads in others,” she added.