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Beware the quiet revolution

15/01/2018
by The Villager Reporter
Columns

There is a silent revolution going on in Namibia at the moment. It is a revolution most people see as a radical step taken to remedy the country's economic woes.

In the past year, a lot happened, and there is no doubt that the trend will continue this year.

But to see and understand this quiet revolution, one need to understand the historical aspects, most of which have not changed ever since apartheid dawned on Namibia.

Let us start with the economy - yes, the heart of any country - whose beats and rhythm determine how a government and a nation function.

It is not a secret that Namibia's economy has not been doing well of late. And President Hage Geingob had also said so when he spoke about economic headwinds.

There could be more than a thousand reasons for an economy to be where Namibia's is right now. 

Most of such reasons have been given by various people, and there is no need to repeat any of them here. 

It suffices to say that the cake has gotten smaller, but the numbers of the hungry have grown and Namibia's society is doing everything possible and necessary to provide for their own.

To be specific, this involves the few whites in the government who seem to be pushing to give an advantage to their own in the name of cleaning up the system.

Just think about some of the measures and decisions taken so far by comrades Calle Schlettwein and Leone Jooste such as the shutting down of the Roads Contractor Company and the issue of the Namibia Students Financial Assistant Fund as well as Namcor.

These few examples show that there is a quiet revolution going on in the name of growing the economy and cleaning up whatever mess there is.

It is a simple fact that does not require an economist to know that you cannot kill the productive sector by saving money and then think that you are growing the economy. 

Economies do not grow because a government is stingy but only when there is production. 

Just look at the Namibia Students' Financial Assistance Fund and all the efforts to destroy it. What future for the children from needy families will be left if the fund is pruned? 

Do you ever wonder why this could so? Just look at the Grade 10 results every year and see whose children are in the top 10 and then check the Grade 12 results and see whose children are in the top 10. 

That should open your eyes as to who needs NSFAF most and why the minister concerned does not seem to care.

COMRADES SCHLETTWEIN & JOOSTE

These comrades are likeable fellows whom we know as hardworking and focused. 

Schlettwein is the only minister apart from Geingob who declared his wealth and its sources.

Looking at his work, one would believe that Schlettwein's approach is what Namibia's economy wants. 

The budget cuts and the tax write-offs, as well as all the other measures meant to curtail spending, could have been in good spirit if it applied to all the 'tribes'.

But by enforcing budget cuts that saw the suspension of more than 50 capital projects across the country, Schlettwein pushed up unemployment.

The government is the biggest employer and customer. Almost every company deals with the government at various levels.

So the suspension of the projects, although it was meant to allow the economy to recover, created problems for the black tribe mostly.

The black tribe produces manual labourers, who have a train of other mouths to feed in the villages. 

Although there are no figures, some construction companies admitted that they had to let hundreds go home.

The questions to Schlettwein are: How can you save money by starving a nation? Why not devise ways and means of collecting taxes?

One example here is the well-known but ignored fact that most game farm and lodge owners in Namibia are externalising their income.

We have read about offshore accounts and shell companies, but none has been brave enough to write about game farmers who ask tourists to deposit money in foreign accounts before flying to Namibia for holidays.

What the country is told by the end of the day is that so many tourists visited the country but nothing about how Namibia earned in taxes from game farmers.

Tourism is a billion dollar industry, and the government can raise billions in taxes from the same sector. But guess what, the tourism industry is still dominated by the other 'tribe'.

It is a no-go area for the 'tribe' whose majority stand by the roadside waving down cars for a piece job or those who spend their lives in the shackles of poverty.

It is a known fact that in sectors where the game farmer 'tribe' is dominant, new entries are shunned like a plague. This used to be the case with the construction sector until the Chinese came and muscled out the dominant 'tribe'.

This is where Leone Jooste comes in with all the changes he is trying to introduce in the name of good governance.

If one looks closely into the issue of the Roads Contractor Company where Jooste has been pushing to close down the entity, one sees a pattern.

Of course, there are issues at the RCC, but these should be addressed by the ministers concerned and deal with the culprits.

The solution cannot be shutting down the RCC simply because a few people there have failed to run the company. This is when a minister has to appoint a board and a chief executive officer who can turn around a company.

Shutting down companies is like cutting off your toe simply because it can't fit into your new shoes. 

To understand the RCC issue, one needs to look at the people who stand to lose and suffer most. There is no need to guess because this move affects those from informal settlements.

One can also talk about the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) whose future and that of thousands of disadvantaged children are uncertain.

This is education at stake, and nobody can argue that education does not matter. So if a country cannot fund education, how will that affect the future when the children who are supposed to be tomorrow industrial leaders fail to go to school?

It must be noted too that the other 'tribe' will never be affected because just a few of their children seek assistance from NSFAF. 

Does it bother the nation that over the years, only whites children dominate the Grade 10 results in this country, while black ones take over at Grade 12?

Have you ever asked yourselves where the white children who score highest at Grade 10 go to after that? 

Just last week, Jooste appeared to have been lobbying the opposition so that he could have more powers to deal with SoEs! 

That in itself is wrong. The ruling party makes policies for government to implement. If the policymaker for one or the other reason is hesitant or not willing to do what you want one cannot use the opposition to achieve your unilateral or private or hidden interests. 

There is no law in this country which is open-ended. That in itself is unconstitutional. Laws are limited to the objective and only to that are provided for in that law. 

In this case is not correct to say the minister is confined. There are some things that he is not doing already provided for in the law. 

Jooste must focus on issues already provided for instead of juggling outside his statutory mandate. 

Open your eyes and see.