Alcohol and drug abuse exacerbated by a lack of opportunities

Martin Endjala

The management of the Swanson Tantalum mining project which is set to open next year in the //Karas Region, says as much as they wish to employ local people, alcohol and drug abuse among them might force them to recruit people from elsewhere.

The Mining company’s Chief Executive Officer, Phillip Le Roux, raised this concern during an interview with the Windhoek Observer recently.

Le Roux said that the behaviour of some locals in the region might pose an issue during the recruitment process because mining activities require individuals to be absolutely sober.

He emphasised that the community in the region will be prioritized, but if they do not meet the requirements, the company will look further inside Namibia, while cautioning that anyone who wishes to work in the mine should be drug-free for six months.

The Swanson Tantalum Project is located some 15 kilometres north of the Orange River in the //Kharas Region and it is expected to create over 200 job opportunities.

During an interview with this publication, //Karas Regional Council Chairperson, Joseph Isaacks, acknowledged that drug and alcohol abuse has been an issue in the region, and blamed the situation on the lack of opportunities.

“The situation has been exacerbated by other phenomena such as lack of jobs, lack of opportunities and the deprivement of the southern people,” he said.

Isaacks said although this should not be an excuse for people to engage in unlawful acts, the fact of the matter remains that people are not afforded opportunities to uplift their lives like in other regions.

“Instead the opportunities are given to people from other regions,” he stated.

He believes the start of the mining project will present opportunities for the region’s inhabitants adding that when people have responsibilities in their lives, they do not turn to drugs.

“If these people are given responsibilities such as paying their bills or mortgages, rates and taxes and so on, they will not abuse drugs. Because the job that they will have will bring stability to their lives. This is why we are saying that Southerners must be first in line to occupy opportunities coming to the South, and regional councils must be part and parcel of these projects.

“Communities in the past have rebelled against their leaders when they see projects flocking to their towns and not a single one of them is given an opportunity. We have nothing against our brothers and sisters from other regions, but what we are saying is, let the region’s inhabitants be considered first. This is what we have been telling the central government time and time again, that exclusion is killing opportunities and value is not given to southerners,” said Isacks.

He stated that the regional council will continue to engage the community at all forms of platforms to articulate social degradation, and urged that elected constituency leaders must be engaged before projects take off to ensure the inclusivity of its inhabitants.

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