Epupa Hydropower Scheme – Public Hearing

Thursday, October 31, 1996

The following is a recent statement by the Himba community regarding their opposition to the Epupa Hydro Electric Scheme. 

Statement of the Affected Community

We are surprised to hear about this Epupa hearing just now, that everyone else, who does not live in the Epupa area, seems to know about for a long time. People who might come from other regions might go to such a meeting and say that they would come from the Epupa area and that they agree upon the construction of a dam at the Kunene. We ourselves, who are born in the Epupa area, we object to these plans – we do not want this dam to be built! And saying that "we do not want this dam to be built" means that all of us say: We do not want it to be built! Whenever the government discusses the issue with us, we have to repeat it again and again and by now we are tired to repeat that we object to the construction of the Epupa dam!

There were meetings held in Windhoek, which we did not attend; meetings about the dam issue, and we, who are born in the Epupa area, were not there. Thus, the people from the area itself were not there, while other people from other regions might have agreed upon building this dam.

If we ourselves, who are from the Epupa region, are now objecting to this dam, it is due to many reasons. The area which will be affected, is the area where our households are, there are people living all over – it is impossible for us, to give this land away! It is where the graves of our ancestors, where graveyards are – we cannot give this land away! It is the area, where our pastures are, where we herd our livestock – we cannot give this land away! Especially the weak and starving animals, they can survive along the river – we cannot give this land away! It is the area, where our fields are, we cultivate our crops there, this is where we get our food from – we cannot give this land away! If we are starving, we flee to the river – we do not give this land away!

If we are refusing to give away the land for the construction of a dam, then it is because these things affect our lives. This area is the life of the people, of all the people who stay there, of all the people who were born in the area. The Tjimba, who might not have livestock, and the Himba, who might have livestock, we all need Epupa and we all must object to the dam, since if it would really be built, there will be death!

And if we say that "Epupa" will not be built, that the dam will not be built, it goes without saying that there will be no construction at Oryokawe as well – no dam is going to be built there and neither will there be any construction at Omukazeze – no dam is going to be built there. Concerning this whole area, which is our area, we say, that the government must finally leave these plans. These are our places, to begin with Oryokawe, up to Epupa, and up to Omukazeze. It might not seem a minor thing to build a dam there, but there are many things, which will die and many things which will affect and hurt us in a crucial way. We do not just refuse to give away Epupa itself, in order to agree on another place. We object to all places, to begin with Orykawe: if we hear that the dam should be built there, we say No!...up to Epupa, we say No!...up to Omukazeze, we say No! There is not one palce which we will give away for the construction of a dam, not one!

If our government which is there now, is actually listening to someone, who is not from here, who does not know, that our households are there, who does not know that our people are burried along the river, who does not know, that our animals are there, all livestock, cattle and goats, who does not know that poor people depend on the food that they gather along the river, someone, who does not know all these things – this would explain how people could agree upon a dam to be cosntructed at Epupa. But then, we who are born in the area and live here, we would be very surprised. Thus, we, as we came to Windhoek now, we are not from Windhoek, and so we do not have meetings in Windhoek or give away things that belong to the people in Windhoek. We know that the issues that concern Windhoek are known to the people who live here themselves. In any country, matters should be decided by the people, who are the legitimate occupants of the place. We are surprised to see, that someone who comes from another area, is trying to give away the land whereas the people who were born there say No! And we are dissapointed to see, that our government which is there now, obviously ignores us, who live in the Epupa area – why is that so, since our country is in fact not really free?

A person who comes from somewhere else does not give away the land of others. We see the growing pressure which this goverment imposes on this issue right now. Nobody, who is from the Epupa area gives permission to construct a dam there, and a person from another area cannot give away the land belonging to others. We are surprised to see our new government, which is said to be democratic and fair – thus: is this country now free or is it not free? Let us ask this government: maybe only part of the country is free, and another part is not free, since if we would be asked about the part of Epupa to be given away by someone, we will say No! If it would be given away now the construction of a dam, it is given away by someone, who is not the owner of the land.

By now we have been talking about Epupa since six, seven or maybe even eight years and, until today, we still discuss it. Meanwhile, we have asked for a study to be carried out and looked for the consultants, who are there at Epupa right now. According to what we hear from the consultants at Epupa, it was not said, that the research process would be concluded yet or that it should not be researched any further. We are just coming from the consultants, and until now there cannot be a final decision about the Epupa issue yet. Still we are waiting for the feasibility study to be concluded and only then, later, there will be a decision taken about Epupa by the legitimate authorities in Windhoek. We are suprised to hear people talk, as if it would have decided already, while the feasibility study is still underway, i.e. we hope that these consultants, whom we gave Epupa to in order to be researched, are here at this meeting now. We have given Epupa exclusively to these consultants who should complete their study first. And as we are here now, we also want to ask since we were never told: who are these people who want to build this dam, are they actually from other countries or are they from here? What do they do, what do they want and how do they want to put their plans through?

Again we are surprised that this meeting about Epupa is held in Windhoek, and not at Epupa. The public meetings concerning Epupa should be held with the people of the Epupa area, i.e. it should not be held in Windhoek. Let them take place in Okanguati or at Epupa. The place which is concerned is Epupa we do not talk about Windhoek. Thus the discussion about Epupa has actually been stolen from the people who live in the area i.e they do not even know about these meetings which take place in Windhoek. The person who is from the area, the person who is supposed to discuss the Epupa issue, might not attend the meeting, and just hears later on that Epupa had been given away. They have to be there in order to understand each other well. It should be known to everyone, that the people of the Epupa area want their meetings to be held in Epupa or in Okanguati, in the area of the people who are concerned. It should not be discussed in Windhoek, from where we hear that people who are not supposed to do so, give away our land. Maybe, the person who spoke there is not from the Epupa area.

And maybe, the meeting fears the people, who live in the Epupa area themselves, because they will say No! Yet if it is then discussed with other people, who are not the owners of Epupa – is this government really a fair and democratic government, and is there really no discrimination anymore? If this is really a free and fair government, then we would all have equal rights. Let us stop discussing about Epupa in Windhoek, if there is a meeting to be held about Epupa, it should always be held at Epupa, in the area itself, which is concerned, to be discussed there.

We cannot always come to Windhoek and leave our households and our children alone. Again and again we have to attend meetings about these problems that are imposed on us from the outside. Yet in spite of the hardship to come to these meetings, we have no choice : we know that this is a serious issue, since the dam which is supposed to be built will take away our land, and we are thus forced to leave our work behind. But still most of us cannot attend the meetings because we have to stay at home and work, we have to take care of the children, the households, the fields and the herds. But do not dare to say that a person who cannot be here, therefore would give away the land. No, we do not give away Epupa! We sent our representatives to speak for us, but we all say the same, all women and all men: Epupa will not be built, it will not be built! We are now tired of having to repeat over and over again : it will not be built!

Thus in case Epupa will be built, there are also corners and edges of the country which will be effected. The people in those places have also heard about the problem and they obesrve the matter. Do not say that they would agree with the Epupa dam! The people who object to the dam come from many households. They all refuse to give away Epupa, and neither do they give Oryokawe nor Omukazeze, and they all live and are born in this area. There are other communities to be mentioned, the people of the households of Tjiruru Mbendura, who are born in the area and who also refuse to give Epupa away, of Kahivanga Rutjindo, who are born there, of Tjihenu Tjambiru, who are born there and refuse to give Epupa away, of Uyeure Muhenye who are born there and refuse to give Epupa away. So all these people, as well as Mbendura, the people of his household, they are born in the Epupa area and they do not give Epupa away, and Tjikumbamba Tjambiru, who is born in the Epupa area and his whole community, they do not give Epupa away! And Kozomgombe Tjingee, who is born in the Epupa area and his whole community they do not give Epupa away to construct a dam! And Ukoruavi Tjambiru, who is born in the Epupa area and his whole community, they do not give Epupa away! And Muhenye, who is born in the Epupa area, and his whole community they do not give Epupa away!

And then, Epupa belongs to us, as well as to the people in Angola. Therefore we had meetings with the people from Angola. All of us, the people from Angola, and we the people from Namibia, all agree that neither at Epupa, nor at Oryokawe, nor at Omukazeze, at none of these places, a dam will be built. We discussed this matter amongst us as the people born in the Epupa area, the people from Angola and the people from this side of the river, we have meetings together and together all of us object to the dam.

We say Epupa is our life! There are the omarunga palms, the ongongo nuts and there are our fields and our homes there! And it is the life of our sheep and goats, of our cattle and calves! And over there on the other side, in Angola, there are graveyards, as well as on this side of the river in Nabibia, there are graveyards! From Karumbu up to Otjavaya, we object to the Epupa dam and say do not dare to build it!

We all say this, all women and all men say this! Together with the communities of Tjihaka Kapika, of Mutri Mbendura, of Katjetu Ndunge, of Kayupa Tjambiru, of Kapira Kapika, of Tjikondomboro Ndunge, of Mbatira Kapika, of Tjizorondu Tjambiru and Mbiya Tjambiru in Angola, with their counsellors and their communities, whom we met and who agree with us – we all say Epupa will not be built!

And if we say Epupa we do not just object to a dam at Epupa itself, but we obejct to any dam to be constructed along the whole of the Kunene River! This is what we say!

Mr. Hikuminue Kapika (Headman)

Mr. Katjira Muniombara (Counsellor)
Mr. Karamata Mutambo (Counsellor)
Mr. Mbassekama Ngombe (Counsellor)

Mr. Kaapa Mutambo (Community Committee)
Mr. Kamissro Ngombe (Community Committee)
Mr. Kassimbatere Mbendura (Community Committee)
Ms. Matjiritjo Tjiposa (Community Committee)
Mr. Mbianke Tjiposa (Community Committee)
Ms. Mberivatue Mebendura (Community Committee)
Mr. Meutjinduika Mutambo (Community Committee)
Ms. Mukaanane Tjuuma (Community Committee)
Ms. Mukaatanpatapa Tjiaura (Community Committee)
Mr. Tako Hunga (Community Committee)
Mr. Tjimbuezumo Tjiramba (Community Committee)
Mr. Tuatupukwa Hepute (Community Committee)
Ms. Uapimbiyapo Ndiaombe (Community Committee)
Ms. Uakarui Ngombe (Community Committee)
Ms. Vaetuyani Tjambiru (Community Committee)
Mr. Vahenuna Tjitaura (Community Committee)