|13. January 2016
Topnaar chief suspends Kuiseb tour operations
THE chief of the Topnaar Traditional Authority, Seth Kooitjie, has suspended tour operations in the Kuiseb Delta, situated about 40 kilometres south of Walvis Bay.
Operations were suspended in November 2015 already.
The Topnaar community living along the Kuiseb River received concession rights from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in August 2014 to control tourism activities in the Kuiseb Delta and Kuiseb Canyon.
The concession rights allow the Topnaar community to control, protect and conserve the !Nara plants, Topnaar graves, historical homesteads, as well as the entire fauna and flora in that area.
They charge tourists for entry into the area and use such funds to develop themselves and pay for their daily needs.
Yesterday Kooitjie confirmed that he had requested the ministry to stop operations due to the fact that there are no formal tour operators and the community had conducted unguided tours, which are not allowed.
“Another issue is that there have been a lot of illegal activities such as off-road driving outside the tracks. Even worse, people with 4x4 trail businesses are suspected to have been operating in the delta, but they have no concession rights.”
He blamed the Kuiseb Delta Development Trust, responsible for the administration of tourism activities and collection of proceeds on behalf of the whole community, for the misdeeds.
“Until the trust finds a tour operator, there will be no operations. We want to do things the right way so our community can benefit,” Kooitjie told Nampa.
The chairperson of the Kuiseb Delta Trust Alwine Kham accepted the blame, saying they were indeed operating without a tour operator but only to make money while searching for an appropriate operator. That process somehow took longer than expected.
“We did not follow the procedures as per our contract with the ministry. We are required to have a joint venture with an operator who will work on our concession.”
Kham said they are currently waiting for the commencement of the tendering process through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for tour operator companies to apply.
Tashiya Joseph Tashiya, the warden in charge of Dorob National Park in which the Kuiseb Delta falls, also confirmed the suspension of tour operations.
Tashiya said the community was advised to wait for the ministry to advertise the tender.
“The tendering process could not start in November as it was almost festive season. I am sure the advert will come out this month when everyone is back at work. Once a suitable operator is chosen then they can start operating again.”
The money collected will be used by the Trust for developmental programmes of the community such as the provision of suitable housing.
Some of it is used to pay for children's education and the rest stays in the Trust's coffers for other operations such as the construction of community campsites and maintenance of vehicles.
(The Namibian, Windhoek)