No going back on NEEEF - Wilbard Usiku

Government is hell-bent on bringing the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) into law despite uncertainties, prospects of downgrades and fears from the white business community, if statements by Employment Equity Commissioner Wilbard Usiku are anything to go by.

Speaking at a NEEEF business forum recently, Usiku tersely told delegates from South Africa and the private sector that further delays in or doing away with economic empowerment poses the risk of radicalising the majority who still feel excluded from the economy.

“Through policies of systematic racial discrimination, the apartheid government left a legacy of enormous inequities and socio-economic disparities which are distinctively visible as they clearly define Namibia’s racial divide,” he said. To the discomfort of a number of whites who were part of the caucus, Usiku drew from the painful past to project how racialised economic inequalities were a deliberate colonial agenda.

He quoted populist statements that border on race-relations said by the USA President Johnson and apartheid South Africa’s Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd. Johnson is quoted as having ranted, “We want all Americas to engage in the race but some are not able to do so because they arrived at the starting line with shackles in their legs.”

To this effect Usiku boldly stated in the business forum, “It is a fact that people will never be able to compete on an equal basis where others have always been disadvantaged by apartheid policies.” Resultantly therefore, he said, “There is justifiable ground in Namibia for legislative intervention to redress the continued socio-economic inequalities before the racially disadvantaged contemplate desperate options which might disturb social peace.”

 Legal Officer from the Directorate Law Reform and Development Commission Mutindi Mulwa Jacobs confirmed with The Villager that they had already made a submission of the second NEEEF report to the Office of the Prime Minister.

The DLRDC was tasked by the OPM to translate the framework into law and this second report constitutes broadbased views, criticisms and advises from the citizenry collected through a consultative process. “Everyone is in agreement that NEEEF needs to happen, the only problem is how is it going to happen. So we have set the second report to the Office of the Prime Minister and we are waiting to be told on what is the most appropriate way to go about it especially with the views we have received from stakeholders,” she said.

She said her office will dish out a press release after recommendations from the OPM after which further consultations will be carried out. Concerns have been raised that the private sector is not at present in a position to cede 25 percent shares to previously disadvantaged persons because most companies are in heavy debt. Others have interpreted the policy to be too radical while one woman who could not identify herself by name responded to The Villager saying,” How do you expect a white child to understand why he has to start a business but the other part of it is not his already?”

However, Chief Legal Officer Charles Uugwanga has watered down these sentiments stamping that NEEEF will proceed through consultations while those who feel it is radical will remain entitled to their own opinions.

“That’s an opinion from specific sectors of the society, if they are saying that the policy is radical. We did not go the way of radicalism; we just went with the premise that we need to create a law which is going to address the issues that we are having. This is what we have presented and we are providing an opportunity for everyone to give their perspective,” he said.