A serious shortage of cement has hit the building industry, with the smaller building contractors crying foul. So desperate is the situation that unscrupulous dealers are selling the available cement at inflated prices.
The contractors blame the sole supplier of cement to Namibia, AfriSam, for allocating the bulk of the product to bigger projects. The bulk of Namibia’s cement comes from AfriSam (formerly known as Holcim) in South Africa.
Cashbuild Windhoek said this week it has had no stocks of cement since the beginning of November. However, there were small bakkies loaded with cement outside the company’s premises, with each bag selling for between N$150 and N$200. The normal price is about N$75.
In recent months, AfriSam squarely placed the blame on TransNamib for not delivering the commodity on time. This week, the company’s managing director Johan Burger acknowledged there were logistical challenges with the production of cement in South Africa and the transportation to Namibia.
Burger said Namibia’s demand for cement had outstripped its supply quota. Apart from the large construction projects currently on going, he said, most of the cement had found its way to Zambia and Angola.
"Customers from neighbouring countries have been purchasing cement through AfriSam’s Namibian customers (local retailers) due to huge shortages in their own countries. These customers are prepared to pay higher prices than the local selling price," said Burger.
He said AfriSam is currently looking into the possibility of buying cement from other sources to supplement the supply from South Africa in an attempt to meet the demand.
As of this week, most building and construction material suppliers said they still had no stock of the commodity.
Pupkewitz Megabuild, one of the largest suppliers of the product, said it only received one truckload from AfriSam on Wednesday last week. The situation was the same at Cashbuild and Builders Warehouse in Windhoek where only one delivery had been made since October - 680 bags that were scooped up by customers upon delivery.
Other outlets such as Benz Building Supplies and Pennypinchers in Oshakati and Windhoek said they had yet to receive their supply of cement from AfriSam.
"We have not had any supply of cement for sometime. Our customers are anxiously waiting for the delivery but we have had nothing since the beginning of this month," said a salesperson from Pennypinchers.
A recent visit by the Economist to the B2 Road construction site between Usakos and Karibib, being undertaken by Namibia Construction and a Chinese consortium, confirmed bulk deliveries of cement.
It was work as usual as two ready-mix concrete trucks were seen off-loading the concrete to construct bridges along the new road under construction.
There are over 30 bridges, small crossings and culverts under construction on the 80km stretch of the road, and work seems to be going on unhindered.