NAMIBIA Wildlife Resorts (NWR), the state-owned company that has been given custodianship of some of the country’s best tourist attractions is running a serious risk of losing that privilege.
An infuriated Pohamba Shifeta, the Minister of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism, reacted to the sad state of affairs at the Namutoni Fort as well as the situation at other resorts where piles of rubbish threaten to overrun operations.
“The old fort at Namutoni is a National heritage site and should never have been allowed to fall into such a state of dilapidation. Somebody must be held responsible for the chaos at some of these resorts,” he said.
Shifeta said the situation at some of the resorts in the custodianship of the NWR is unacceptable.
“We are doing our level best at government level to ensure that the tourism revival initiative will help to kick-start the national economy while employees and officials have done nothing to assist with the effort. During the time that our borders were closed and we had no international visitors, the people responsible had months to clean up, repair, and prepare but nothing happened. We cannot allow this status quo to continue indefinitely,” he said.
The environment minister stated that if stakeholders that have been given custodianship of national assets such as the national parks cannot manage themselves or the assets in their care then it would be taken away from them.
“Stakeholders will have to do more with what they have been given and will have to try harder to give back to the nation and the economy instead of continuing to ask for funds to do the jobs they are already getting paid to do,” he said.
Leon Jooste, the Minister of Public Enterprises, whose ministry has taken up the burden of the responsibility for the efficient management of state-owned enterprises, with regard to the state of resorts and immovable assets shared the same sentiments as the tourism minister.
“The successful tourism revival will require full commitment and cooperation from all stakeholders and NWR with their privileged locations in our National Parks will have to do their part. We need flawless tourist experiences to boost our competitiveness during this complicated period,” he said.
The harsh reaction from the two ministers came after photos of the dilapidated state of the old fort at Namutoni started doing the rounds on social media platforms.
The pictures were taken by Phillip Steyn, who worked as a game warden for years.
“While I was a game warden and an employee of the Namibian Government, I always took pride in the old Namutoni Fort. It was not only a landmark but the historical value of the place always made me proud to be a Namibian. Seeing the fort in the state it is in now, simply means that somebody is not doing their jobs,” Steyn said.
The public enterprises minister gave the assurance that the Managing Director of NWR Matthias Mnwangwama will travel to Namutoni this week to inspect the site and to make an assessment of the damage.
Mnwangwama said in an official statement said the state-owned enterprise appreciates constructive criticism.
According to Mnwangwama, the old fort has been closed off for several years with the intent to renovate it to its former state for the benefit of visitors from both the domestic and international market.
“Returning it (the fort) to its former state entails the relocation of accommodation facilities back to the fort as was the case in the past. It also involves replacing the wooden deck at the viewpoint. The envisioned renovation is estimated to cost about N$20 million. It is for this reason that the NWR management team a few years ago opted to close off the fort up until they could secure the necessary funds to realise the project,” he said. Mnwangwama stated that the NWR does not condone the filth that has accumulated within the fort.
“The removal of dilapidated structures and cleaning is something that has been addressed immediately and going forth we will do periodic cleanups up until we have renovated the fort,” he concluded.