Cement industry needs level playing field

Mr. Hans-Wilhelm Schütte
Mr. Hans-Wilhelm Schütte

Hans-Wilhelm Schütte, Managing Director of Ohorongo Mining, has lambasted the Namibian government over falling short on the efficient execution of the Infant Industry Protection (IIP) scheme that the government initiated in 2012 to protect local start-ups from stiff competition from multinational companies.

Schütte stated that the protection of infant industries outlined in Namibia’s Growth at Home Strategy continues to be a drawn-out issue and stated that fair competition is imperative and a level playing field is needed in the already strained construction industry.

Schütte’s statement follows Informate’s article that reported that the Otavi-based Ohorongo cement factory issued a memo to all its staff that the company is going through an organisational restructuring process that might include redundancy of certain posts and job losses due to the contraction of the building industry and increased competition in the local market, in particular from China’s Cheetah Cement’s entry on to the market.

Meeting with President Hage Geingob, Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein, and Minister of Trade, Tjekero Tweya, Schütte discussed the issues and other industry-related matters. Answering the mounting question of whether or not the axe will fall on roughly 600 employees at the mine, Schütte stated that it is not yet clear how many employees might be retrenched.

“We have an internal memo where we have announced restructuring. It’s a normal process, we have restructured in the past. We have to see how the organisation will adapt to the future. We are not talking about people, but positions. We will create new positions at the new Ondangwa depot, but some positions will become redundant,” he said. Schütte further urged government to create solutions for healthy competition in the marketplace for the sake of the Namibian people, the Harambee Prosperity Plan and Namibia’s Vision 2030 goals of an industrialised nation.

“Competition in any industry is important, however, it has to be healthy competition. It’s not something new when Ohorongo started in 2011 that Namibia had huge cement imports into the country. We had competition then. The Infant Protection Industry is still being challenged in the courts. It is a process that has dragged on,” Schütte stated.

Finally, he stated that there are certain things that can be improved in the future such as cement quality standards, regardless of brand names. “The NSI should be complimented for developing cement standards in Namibia. NOW we need to make it a law,” he said.

Source: Informante, Namibia

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