By: Kelvin Chiringa
The Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union has combined forces with the Swapo Party Youth League to force the issuing of tenders for the Hosea Kutako Airport carriage way and the Walvis Bay rail project until local companies get accommodated.
SPYL stalwarts have confirmed the latest developments.
Both parties want the bidding process to be halted forthwith and “restart the process by relaxing the pre-qualifications to accommodate local contractors”.
They want the same to go for “all other projects that can be done by Namibians who protect and advance decent jobs for local construction workers”.
Both parties will this week Tuesday issue a petition to the finance ministry, the Roads Authority as well as the ministry of works and transport.
MANWU will demonstrate in work suits while SPYL will be running with the message of black empowerment.
The bone of contention
The local tendering process has brought some of the fiercest battles that have pitted the public sector against private players leading into drawn out court battles.
Unfortunately, the construction sector is heavily reliant on these government contracts, which makes the cake small.
What is clear is that the sector has been starved for too long as government resorted to freezing several major projects and tightening expenditure.
The effect this has had is cataclysmic.
Pre-qualification conditions have been put in place to remove weak competitors from those that can provide quality services, yet these have been shot down as discriminatory even by the Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF).
The CIF last year was on government’s throat to have these retracted as the federation argued that they “overlooked local bidders ahead of foreign firms on technical bases”.
“As it stands now, it appears that the local industry is being technically excluded from lucrative tenders. The tender requirements (historical financial performance and financial resources, average annual construction turnover) are of such a nature that they automatically preclude all Namibian contractors,” said Bärbel Kirchner, consulting general manager of CIF.
A local daily quoted Kirchner saying that the “same applied to the financing arrangements with the Republic of China”.
“The industry is concerned that once again the conditions of grants and loans are of such a nature that (they) preclude the local industry due to stipulations determined by the Chinese government.”
It begs the question of whether the approach of technically excluding Namibian contractors is not aligned with Namibia’s national development plans and is indeed in the interest of addressing unemployment and tackling poverty in Namibia, she said. It is unlikely to lead to Namibia’s sustainable economic development, she added.
“Government might have secured favorable financial arrangements with China, however, the question is, what are the trade-offs?”
“We should consider the overall costs involved – the loss of Namibia’s own capacity, further retrenchments, even the potential collapse of our entire industry. It is generally known that labour, products, and services are being imported. Cash is taken out of the country. We also need to better understand the arrangements with regard to taxation and contributions to our Receiver of Revenue,” she said.