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Who will clean up after Ramatex?

The uncertain future of the Malaysian-owned Ramatex textile factory on the outskirts of Windhoek is a cause of concern for government and the more than 6000 workers who may lose their jobs. Ramatex management recently informed the Namibian government of their unwillingness to continue operating in the country unless issues such as unsatisfactory productivity levels were resolved, and suggested that government buy the factory. At the time of going to press, Ramatex was in negotiations with shop stewards and trade unions, following government's rejection of the offer to buy out Ramatex.

Environmental concerns still unanswered

In light of this renewed debate about the future of Ramatex, the pro-environmental group Earthlife Namibia has once more raised questions about the factory's environmental impact. The group recently forwarded an open letter to the Ministries of Trade and Industry, and Environment and Tourism, as well as to the City of Windhoek, in which it questions how Ramatex will be held responsible for the extensive environmental damage the factory caused over the four years that it was in operation. The group also asks whether Ramatex has set aside adequate finances for rehabilitating the local environment before management leave Namibia, and what agreements bind the parties involved.

Unacceptable contamination with dangerous chemicals

Earthlife Namibia claims that from the time the factory opened, Ramatex failed to comply with international environmental and social standards. "It is a fact that the area around Ramatex is already unacceptably contaminated with dangerous chemicals and that their effluent [waste products] cannot be taken into the Gammams water purification works," the letter reads. The group also alleges that the Ministries did not enforce environmental agreements with respect to Ramatex. "Instead Ramatex continuously enjoyed enormous financial benefits such as subsidised water and electricity tariffs, and the provision of costly infrastructure at the ratepayers' expense."


Call for an independent environmental assessment

Earthlife Namibia further questions why an overdue Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), performed by a company that Ramatex commissioned, has still not been made public, and demands the "full truth" and an audit of the environmental facts. The organisation has several times in the past called for an independent EIA to be done, and for this has been publicly reprimanded and ridiculed by various government leaders as "being persistently and deceitfully engaged in activities which are subversive to the government's development efforts," the letter reads. The organisation warns against government taking over operations at the factory, stating that it would result in disastrous financial consequences, in addition to the detrimental environmental burden.

In a short interview with Sister Namibia, the Permanent Secretary of Trade and Industry and Chair of the Technical Committee Andrew Ndishishi said government would respond to Earthlife Namibia once officials have investigated and verified issues raised in the letter. Ndishishi refused to divulge more information, except to say that the factory is not closing.

Taxpayers' money wasted

The official opposition party Congress of Democrats (CoD) cautioned against government investing more in Ramatex, mentioning a number of other major failed investments. CoD member of parliament Tsudao Gurirab advised that government instead create an enabling environment in which business people take their own risks and do not waste citizens' hard-earned taxes.

Additional information from The Namibian
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:textile factory, environmental degradation
Author:Tibinyane, Natasha
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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