Residents of Medie near Lentsweletau village in eastern Kweneng district have accused area MP, Naniki Makwinja of conflict of interest in addressing their grievances against Minergy Coal –a coal mining company which operates a mine in the area.
At the center of the complaints is the illegal drilling of a borehole next to farmers’ boreholes allocated for irrigation in their horticulture farms and trucking of coal from the mine through the village producing dust storms, posing a health hazard to the residents.
Residents complain that Makwinja is failing to intervene because of conflict of interest as her husband is a Board Member at Minergy Coal. According to company documents, Makwinja’s husband –Leonard, is an independent non-Executive Director at Minergy Coal. Furious over the accusations, Makwinja said it is the work of her detractors who are trying to score cheap political points. Although she does not dispute that her husband sits in the Board of Directors at Minergy Coal, Makwinja dismissed any suggestions that she is failing to resolve disputes between the residents and the company because of conflict of interest. “There is no conflict of interest. We are both professionals. He is best placed to help me resolve issues if there is any issue that could be affecting the community. I have made all efforts to engage the land board about the issue of the borehole and they have not responded yet to my inquiry,” said Makwinja, confessing that she has not personally approached Minergy Coal about the dispute over their borehole which is next to farmers who also have water rights for irrigation.
Makwinja said she has never been approached by anyone to intervene in the dispute. She said she only learn about allegations of illegal drilling, hence the reason she tried to approach the landboard. However, Tumelo Seetso – one of the aggrieved horticulture farmers, said he has tried in vain to contact Makwinja through WhatsApp and Facebook messenger to intervene. Seetso said there has never been at any point where the minister responded to issues he raised. When he failed to reach Makwinja, Seetso said he approached Lentsweletau Sub Land board to intervene when the coal miner started drilling a borehole next to his farm in Diphale.
According to documents chronicling events of the dispute, the Lentsweletau Sub Land board ordered the coal miner to stop drawing water from the borehole. In the minutes of the sub land board meeting Minergy Coal admitted that they were not given surface rights and water rights to draw water in from the borehole. The company has admitted drawing 10 000 cubic metres daily-a development that has left a trail of destruction to horticulture farms nearby. Seetso further indicated that the drawing of water for industrial use has left his borehole to dry.
Meanwhile, Makwinja said accusations that she is failing to intervene on the issue of dust storms caused by large trucks posing a health risk to communities in Medie is unfounded. “I have been involved in several meetings to resolve the issue. I have been with the ministry of finance this week in attempt to see whether Government can meet the company half way towards the budget for the construction of a road. I have been engaging government to see whether a PPP model can work for this road. Those who are saying I am failing to intervene are not telling the truth,” said Makwinja, explaining that Minergy Coal has already proposed to sponsor half of the construction of a tarred road.
She said she regularly consults with the community about the issue of dust and that the construction of a tarred road is the only option. “Those who are accusing me are those who don’t attend kgotla meetings. I have been consulting the communities about issues besieging them as their MP. Some people are trying to get political mileage using my name. I have people’s interest at heart,” said Makwinja, adding that residents have even come up with suggestions on how to address issues relating social problems caused by parking of trucks in the village.
Makwinja said she did not choose to become an MP because she was desperate for leadership positions, but rather because she wanted to help people of Lentsweletau/ Mmopane.
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