Namibia reflects 27 years later
No individual should be over empowered – President Hage Geingob
This week marks 27 years of Independence for Namibia, as the President of the Republic of Namibia and as the President of the Swapo Party, can you cite three key achievements we can be proud of as Namibians since independence?
This question can be answered by pointing out three areas in which we have achieved success during the past 27 years. At the political level, we have ensured that Namibia is rooted in democracy, unity, peace, stability and the rule of law. Since Independence Namibians have enjoyed the right of freedom of movement and the right to exercise free speech.
These concepts were unheard of during the Apartheid Era. Today, we are recognized by international media pundits as having the freest press in Africa. These are all notable achievements. Believe or not, we have achieved tremendous progress in our economy as well. In 1990, our GDP stood at a mere N$5.5 billion. Per capita GDP was only Two Thousand, Four Hundred and Twenty Five Namibia Dollars in 1990.
At present our GDP has increased to N$166 billion, an increase of 30 fold. At the same time, per capita GDP has increased to N$63,000 by 2014. In 1990 our manufacturing sector was worth only N$290 million; in 2014 this had increased to N$15 billion. Over the past 27 years we have consistently worked to extend our road network which comprises of an enormous 45, 000 km of roads.
We have work extensively to build new feeder and connecting roads to ensure that no area in Namibia is cut off from the main national highways. Today, I will be opening the Otjinene – Okondjatu (Gobabis – Grootfontein) road, which will be the main road linking the Omaheke and Otjozondjupa Regions. We have been able to connect many areas that were considered remote and isolated before independence. Places such as Katima Mulilo, Rundu, Nkurenkuru, Katwitwi, Eenhana, Outapi, Ruacana, Kamanjab and Khorixas are all connected by newly built and modern roads.
In the South we have the Oranjemund and Rosh Pinah road as well as many ongoing projects which will continue to add to Namibia’s road network. At the Socio-Economic level, we have witnessed the burgeoning of Windhoek and many other towns around the country. This has brought with it its own problems, by placing pressure on our municipalities to provide more serviced land, but it is a sign that our towns and cities have turned into centres of prosperity.
Today, black people are owners of farms, which they have acquired with their own money. This was unheard of before independence. In the case of social expenditure, the 2017/18 budget allocates N$27.4 billion or 47.7% of total budget towards Education, Health, social safety nets and poverty eradication. Of that amount N$6.3 billion or 10.1% of total budget has been allocated towards sustaining various poverty reducing social safety nets, such as the old age social grant, grants to war veterans, orphans and vulnerable citizens and people living with disabilities.
You have mentioned external factors that we didn’t anticipate when the Harambee Prosperity Plan was developed and the same factors impacted our economy negatively. What are those?
We did not anticipate the global economic downturn that has affected the entire world. The effect of the downturn was aggravated by the fall in commodity prices as well as SACU revenue. If we look at Angola for example, we can see how the fall in commodity prices has affected their economy, which in turn has affected our economy since Angolan spending in Namibia’s market has reduced. Our building contractors who quote in US$ have also had to bear the brunt of the falling value of the South African Rand against the US Dollar, adversely affecting our foreign reserves. Economics aside, we also didn’t anticipate the growing tribalism amongst Namibia’s young people. We are witnessing more of our youths identifying with their tribes and region instead of embracing a cosmopolitan approach when interacting amongst each other. Some youths want to become traditional headmen as well.
All these retrogressive attitudes being displayed by young and educated people is surprising and disappointing at the same time. One would assume that the old guard would be the proponents of these attitudes but it is the other way around. This is why we have developed a new narrative – the Namibian House, One Namibia – One Nation, No Namibian must feel left out and Harambee in order to counter the emergence of tribalism and regionalism.
Lastly, it is disappointing to note that many Namibians still have a high dependency on Government even after they have received education and training. This places a burden on the Government which should mainly focus on assisting those people who are unable to assist themselves.
You have said recently that Namibia will soon be on firm footing economically what are some of the proposed interventions?
We have taken several steps which include addressing corruption, most notably by applying stringent oversight of the tender process. We are also committed to ensuring that we have fair and equal economic distribution amongst all Namibians. We should no longer have a situation in Namibia where only one group dominates the economy. No individual should be over empowered. There are already positive signs that our economy is on the mend. As you heard during the recent Budget Speech by the Minister of Finance, our economy is expected to grow 2.5% over the next year, which is probably the highest growth rate in the region.
You chaired the 1991 Land Conference and also dealt extensively with the Land Question in your Doctoral thesis. What are the plans of the administration over the next 3 years on Land Distribution?
We need to revisit the willing buyer willing seller concept which we adopted to adhere to resolution 435. We have exhausted the concept because we have not achieved the desired results. This means we need to look at our Constitution which allows for the expropriation of land with fair compensation and also look at foreign ownership of land, especially absentee land owners. We could have been taken this route at independence and I am sure such a decision would have been accepted then, but since we did not, many people have become comfortable with the current arrangements in place.
The Resolution taken at the 1991 Land Conference is very clear. We must just implement it. If we are committed to achieving further economic growth and maintaining peace, then everyone should be open to a new approach. Furthermore, I am in favour of establishing cooperatives consisting of retired farmers who will be able to provide training and guidance to resettled farmers in order to empower them through the knowledge of farming.
These cooperatives can consist of veteran farmers and resettled farmers who will have shares. Resettled farmers will then receive training in all aspects of farming and carpentry. Dividends will be shared amongst all members of the cooperative. I have shared this idea with several retired white farmers who were very receptive to it.
You have said that the war on poverty will be multifaceted, what are the various efforts being pursued?
In order to make an immediate impact on the livelihoods of our most vulnerable citizens, we increased the Old Age Social Grant. This means the Old Age Grant which stands at N$ 1200 in 2017 has doubled from the N$ 600 in 2014. This intervention has made a meaningful impact in reducing poverty levels, not only amongst our senior citizens, but our children as well since many of our children are under the care of senior citizens.
On other dimensions of poverty, we decided to engage the Nation through a public dialogue on wealth redistribution and poverty, from which, outcomes will culminate in a blueprint on how to eradicate poverty in Namibia by 2025. Aspects of the blueprint have also been prioritized and incorporated into the Harambee Prosperity Plan, for accelerated intervention. We are also exploring measures to accelerate industrialization. Through, the Food Bank, we are not only able to provide food for the urban poor but we are also able to provide employment of the youth through the Street Committee Program.
We will continue to look at ways to combine this program with the Basic Income Grant. NEEEF is also a program that we intend to implement. It will have to come with conditions in terms of Government tenders. Although the 25% clause may be dropped, there must still be stringent conditions attached because inequality cannot continue in an independent Namibia. Finally, business and farm owners need to take care of their workers by providing them with shelter, adequate sanitation and solar power generated electricity. 27 years after independence, we should all adopt a carrying and humane approach to dealing with each other. Let Government and the business people meet each other halfway to make this country a place of prosperity for all.
Pohamba was very true to coexistence: McHenry Venaani
Under president Nujoma, the success was to lay out the foundation of statehood, to create the necessary structures and that was successfully done. Yet under his administration corruption was very rampant. Pohamba Era If I have to judge my good friend Hage Geingob now, Pohamba was very true to coexistence and stability. The rapport that he built under his leadership for the last ten years though nothing much was happening, but there was a leader who was co-relating to all the sectors of society and that was his hallmark. Not the highly educated person, but he is a person who has been built with a lot of natural intelligence. But the programs that he adapted under Tipeeg, they brought the country to where it is today. Corruption got hold of Nujoma’s presidency, it was perfected under Pohamba’s administration, and all these programs looted the country to bankruptcy. One thing that Pohamba did was to strike financial agreements with China that are asymmetric. He gave this country to the Chinese to take hold.
Now Hage’s administration has just given a free licence to the Chinese to perpetuate that. Politics is about perception. For the president to have a friend, Jack Huang, it’s the same like Trump who has business interests and his children and son-in-law are in office. America put up a big story like, how can you appoint your own son-inlaw? What Jack Huang and many other people have managed to achieve in this country, it tells you that they have access to political leadership in this country to do what they want. There is a difference between clean Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and dirty FDI and one of the problems that Hage’s administration should guard against is for this country to be perceived as if it is captured by a certain part of society. I wouldn’t be simplistic to say that if my partner has stolen therefore I am also a thief but the things that he (jack Huang) has gotten away with without being questioned tells a story that these people have influence in top leadership. And the perception created it out there. But because you are a friend of the big man, you get your way. So I think when we call people friends there is a big difference when someone is your business partner. What is important is when I start naming my friends, and my friend is this journalist and he starts acting in another way then it starts questioning my credibility. The corruption is so organised that even politicians’ holidays are being organise by international partners, we know so many things, three holidays that were paid by people, we are not only targeting the Chinese. But what this country has failed so far is that, the Chinese came here, they are taking all our regional councillors and local councillors from the ruling party to China on meetings paid by them and they are learning their weaknesses. They come to you and ask what is in your village, what can they extract from you. But when we go to them we are not learning what value we can extract from them. We have not up to now extracted any value from this very strong foreign investor.
Pohamba’s Tipeeg opened the pit too wide; it has brought this financial situation that we are in. The things that I thought Hage would concentrate on, he is not. I think he needs to do much more. We need to fix our house, we should move on a trajectory towards industrialisation. Nothing much is happening. I thought he would negotiate new trade deals with China that are a win-win. But he is moving business as usual. He is promising prosperity and he is not getting it because the economy is the only thing that can give prosperity. If your figures are not growing beyond 7.7% then you must be worried that you are not creating jobs, the necessary resources to kick-start the SME sector and you are not doing enough to get the economy rolling. If you are failing on employment then forget prosperity, it starts with jobs.
In practice we are actually a one dominant party state: Ignatius Shixwameni
Are you satisfied with how Namibia is being governed at the moment?
Hage’s One Party State
While projecting ourselves as a democracy, in practice we are actually a one dominant party state. Starting from parliament, the executive and the judiciary, they are all dominated by members from one political party; it is the same people that sit in the politburo, cabinet, the national assembly and the national council. But you can’t blame it on Swapo as such but on the citizenry, in the sense that they are the ones who do not see the difficulties that are being experienced economically or whatever derived from governance at political level. We must wait for such a time when people start linking politics with their real day to day life, and seeing that it is not good to give one political party a complete overwhelming majority, but that we need to establish proper checks and balances so that other parties still have a say in the way that the country is governed and the budget is set up so that one political party does not over use its power. Minority political parties are also to blame, because the reality is that since independence, they have not worked hard enough to put in jeopardy the majority of Swapo and make it eat a humble pie like everybody else, and show that this country is for Namibians and not Swapo-land.
The abuse of state resources
They abuse state resources for political gain, as if they were party resources, the Chinese and Pakistanis come in and give them a lot of money. Swapo uses political patronage in terms of jobs for comrades and on who gets what tender. It’s known that they get inflated tenders because they have to give a cut to the Swapo party politicians.
Lack of free and fair elections
We should face Electoral Commission of Namibia to reflect the polity of the country; if 99% of the people elected at the Electoral Commission are all Swapo members there is no way that you can expect free, fair and democratic elections. They will always temper with votes because they take instructions from their bosses.
Patronage and corruption
We have 27 years of independence, and there are lawyers that have been groomed from Unam and other international institutions, why bring in lawyers all the way from South Africa to come and defend cases around here? Swapo should actually feel ashamed because they recruit foreign legal minds on several occasions. How patriotic are these comrades in Swapo to bring these lawyers in laws that you yourselves have made? There is a debate going on as to why every time government is in a fix, they run to Sisa Namandje? Is he the only lawyer in this country? This has implications on democracy because it is like you scratch my back; I scratch yours that is the politics of the day. This is what will destroy our country; everybody is now aspiring to be rich and stealing from state coffers. It’s theft that is happening, its not even close to corruption, but literal plunder. These petty cases that we hear of like N$3000 taken from school development fees are not really corruption. What happens to the big sharks? All citizens must fight to protect our hard won independence and democracy, SWAPO can not claim to be the sole right owners of the struggle for independence and freedom of this country.
The Nujoma era and its fault
During Nujoma’s time everyone was running to state house during the night asking for favours and the old man was generous. The situation started from Nujoma and Hage was presiding over it. You cannot blame Hage alone; he takes the big portion of the blame because he is now the head of state when all these things are now surfacing. But the older people like Tatekulu Sam Nujoma and Pohamba take the blame. For the past 27 years, we have had them in cabinet, Hage has been Prime Minister for a good part of our 27 years of independence; Calle Schlettwein has been Permanent Secretary at the Finance Ministry for a good part; Saara Kuungogelwa-Amadhila has been in cabinet since 1995. They have all been there and they have known these problems since day one. Eighty percent of the politburo remains the same from before independence, almost 70 percent of the central committee of Swapo are the same people since before independence, 75 percent of the cabinet has been there since independence, they are all to blame, they plundered the coffers of the country and now that suddenly we are in a squeeze, they want to place the blame on one faction of Swapo and Hage Geingob when they have all been there eating and chopping our state coffers.
Nujoma’s role on land on land
Nujoma was much more of laying the foundation; I would say that he was a national builder, reconciling everybody. In the process there were blunders that were made together with all his colleagues in the cabinet and politburo on the land issue. I refuse to accept that black Namibians in 1991 at the first Land Conference denied themselves the claim to ancestral land. Who originated with the view that ancestral land claims can not be entertained in Namibia? Our uneducated people should have been overwhelmed by a lot of papers compiled by consultants hired by our own black government plus the politicians that had a vested interest in acquiring commercial land, they compromised us in 1991.
Pohamba did not have presidential ambitions; he was very open to consultation even with opposition political parties. He invited Civil Society, NGOs and Trade Unions at state house and we could talk on a number of issues. He is a real reflection of humanity, but when given power one has to exercise them with humanness, he just did no bulldoze everything. Many people abused that softness in him, some of the things that came from the Nujoma era thus continued in his era. Another thing is, his weak advisors would always tell him what he wanted to hear. They failed Pohamba while the tenderpreneurs continued. They thrived under his administration, the messed up mass housing is an example. I know The Villager investigates things; find out how many tenderpreneurs became very successful during the mass housing project.
Urgent need to address land issue: Usutuaije Maamberua
The Harambee Prosperity Plan is fine. My only problem is that it is not being rolled out to the lower levels in the country.
There are things that are not being addressed properly, like the land issue. It has not been taken seriously by government. The land question is not a historical and political issue, it has got other ramifications in terms of industrialization and investment. `As long as the country has very serious problems with addressing the land question, then you have got investors who may not be willing to invest on disputed land. Industrialization will thus be halted and delayed. Local and foreign investment will also not happen with the speed and depth in which it is supposed to.
Free tertiary education
As long as you do not have free tertiary education, development will also be sluggish because you do not allow opportunities to some students who otherwise would have just gone to universities. Education in general is very problematic in terms of the poor pass rates that we see in grades 10 and 12, we need serious attention in that area.
The Nujoma era had imaginations of Vision 2030 but since its departure I have not seen the subsequent administrations having had the same level of commitment to it. It is now something that only exists on paper, I do not see the same vigour since Nujoma departed. We have not seen very tangible, strong programs to realise that vision and that is the difference between now and then.