Venaani hammers on economic ills … says he is ready to be challenged in party’s upcoming congress

In a media engagement where he set his 2018 party agenda, official opposition party president, McHenry Venaani, seized on the opportunity to hammer on various economic woes as well as setting the record straight that he is ready to be challenged in their next party-congress. 

Venaani, who said this year would be a season for a battle of ideas ahead of elections, shot from the hip at the country’s mining sector which he alleged was paying less tax than the average citizen.

“We have a mining sector in our own country that pay less tax than the general population. All our mining products are leaving our shoals unprocessed, meaning that all the products that are leaving the Namibian shoals unprocessed are creating jobs somewhere else in the international community, whether in China, England and wherever our minerals are going,” he said. 

Venaani said his party would take a motion to parliament to raise discussion around having 30 % of Namibia’s minerals channeled towards value addition.

This is in spite of the fact that the mines ministry has already set the record straight that beneficiation is government’s uncompromising stance in order for the country to realise optimum profits from its resources. 

On the other end, Venaani also rapped government for doing nothing to pin down on multinationals that he alleged are engaged in illegal outflows of finances and tax evasion which he said was black-painting Namibia’s global perception as a tax haven.

Although finance minister Calle Schlettwein lashed out at the European Union towards the end of 2017 saying Namibia was not a tax haven, Venaani said up to now, no team of experts has been unleashed to make preliminary investigations into the allegations. 

  “There have been reports, on BBC and many other credible institutions saying that Namibia is slowly becoming a tax haven. That companies that are doing business here are evading paying tax. Many of you are aware that I have asked the president during his state of the nation address of 2017 as to what he is doing to make sure that Namibia is not categorised as a country where multinationals are having illicit financial outflows in the country.”

“We are losing a lot of money through illicit financial outflows but the government has not put up a technical team of experts to narrow the gap of illicit financial outflows. In a report that was commissioned by the African Union, it was said that Africa is losing close to $2 trillion every year from tax evasion and illicit financial outflows. Our governments are in the know that we are losing this money but what is it that we are doing?” he queried.

He turned his scurrile attack towards the public enterprises which he labelled as “the biggest thugs in our country”. 

“Look at 2017 and see what was happening with public enterprises. There is no agenda whatsoever to reform these institutions. Nothing has been done about the SME bank, the Roads Contractor is about to go under liquidation but I do not know what the Public Enterprises ministry has been doing in reforming these institutions,” he said. 

Others have suggested that it would be offside to criticise the SOEs ministry at a time the minister was awaiting the Attorney General’s input with regards to the SOEs Act which currently does not empower Leon Jooste to decisively move against parastatals.

Venaani said regardless of that, there was no basis in forming a ministry for SOEs without having created the right and empowering legislation in the first place.

He added, “One of the issues that we are going to raise in parliament is to bring a motion that will discuss the closure of a plethora of SOEs because we have been warning government since we entered parliament that, why is it that every time a legislation is brought into the house, there is creation of another parastatal?”

“We are going to address privatisation, that we must privatise non-performing SOEs in our country. There is no point in hanging to institutions that are bleeding state coffers and the state is continuously bailing them out with what they call turn-around strategies that are turning around these institutions into messy thugery institutions,” he said. 

He added that his party’s motion will look into the pay-structures of SOEs’ senior leadership and management. 

“There is a notion in our country, (that) when you run a parastatal, you peg the salary of a parastatal to the one in the private sector. But you don’t peg the income that the private sector is making for it to pay that salary. If you look at a lot of companies that are bleeding the state and you look at the top structures of their management, they tell you a story that something must be done for us to be able to curb those exorbitant salaries,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the official opposition will be holding its elective congress a few months away from now and Venaani, pressed by reporters if he would agree to step down in the event that he loses, said he was willing to be challenged.

  “Well I am not stepping down. I am running. I think others can run too. I am a democrat, I believe in the values and ethos of democracy. The rumor was that no when the PDM is going to be reformed, somebody wrote an article about it, Venaani would extend his term because the three years that he has already governed would be extended now (that) he is ruling a new party.” 

“No! I am not complaining, lets go to the next elections, anyone who wants to challenge me, it’s open. I brought democracy to the party, there is no way that I can stand in the way for those who want to challenge me,” he said.