One thing that has seen Namibia get where it is today is corruption.
This is not just a theory. With such a small economy, this country cannot carry all the corruption that has been happening since the early days of independence. If you want to see how corruption brought this country onto its knees, calculate all the billions and millions of dollars reported over the years. Think about the Avid millions years back. How many houses could that money have built? There were culprits and there are culprits.
Years after the money was stolen, none has been held accountable for the theft. The current situation indicates that it is very unlikely that the money will be recovered. Even if the government manages to recover it all or part of it, what about the interest? Had that money been invested, the country could have harvested millions more. There was also the GIPF N$600 million. This was about 10 years ago now. There was talk about an investigation into the case. More money was wasted paying South African auditors. Today, nobody is talking about it. There have not been any arrests.
It is not a secret that those millions will never be recovered. They just went by the river. It is years now since the Teko case where N$120 million was taken from the government. That case has been dragging on in the courts. With each day that passes, chances of the money coming back are also receding. These are just but some of the very few cases of money that went to waste. It is money that could have been used to benefit the poor. All that money could have been used for the development of infrastructure and houses. It could also have been used to improve health services and education.
This did not happen and the money went to waste. Most people may not have realised it then because the economy was still performing well. Former president Hifikepunye Pohamba’s mass houses would have been completed without delay. Come to think of it, the money could have been looted there again just like the other millions that were paid out, while the mass housing projects across the country are still incomplete. The mass housing programme was a brilliant idea if the money was not looted.
As it is now, a few people are enjoying luxury while thousands are still stuck in shacks. Just look at the quasi-government agencies that cannot pay workers. These are the same agencies whose chief executive officers pocket millions per year apart from other perks. Those below the ladder have always been taking home poverty wages. Today, they are the ones who are likely to be retrenched or work for no pay. The bosses who have been taking home millions will still walk home loaded even when they are asked to leave. The poor workers will not have enough to last them a month. This is how it is and how we have allowed it to be. The fat ones get fatter and the thin ones get thinner. The gap between the rich and the poor widens. Corruption won big time.
The country bled profusely. There is no recovery any time soon. While all this was happening, the government’s coffers were slowly emptying up. Before we realised it, there is no money and there are frantic efforts to reserve and save the little that is coming in from the taxes. Now corruption has caught up with us because an economy does not just collapse in a jiff. It takes years of mismanagement and carelessness to bring down economies. So we should not look anywhere far.
This situation developed right before our eyes. We, however, chose to ignore it. We accepted corruption as just one of those things that can happen. We bred it among us the way one breeds a mangy dog. The teeth are out. Where is Paulus Noa when he is needed most? This nation can do with his services. Unfortunately, it appears as if he has not been able to live up to the call. How one wishes that Namibia had a Thuli Madonsela to whip in line these corrupt companies, businessmen and government ministers. Look at Jacob Zuma after Madonsela had dealt with him. He paid back the money.
At least, the South African government got back something. There are other factors that brought this economy down but corruption ranks high up there. If Noa was like Madonsela, maybe Namibia’s situation could have been better. Looters and thieves would think twice before they plunder agencies and then run to Calle Schlettwein begging for help. Come to think of it, what is the Ombudsman John Walter’s job? Is he not supposed to be like Madonsela? Or they are different? This ombudsman has not delivered anything tangible in recent times.
He compiles reports every year at least but these spend their entire lives locked up somewhere in old cupboards before they find their heroes acre in some rubbish dump. So if Noa and the ombudsman cannot save and serve the people, who will do so? Is it that corruption is bigger and wiser than they are? There no doubt that thousands of people out here would do with Noa and Walters’ help. Gentlemen, where are you when this nation needs you most?