Want some insight in Namibian politics? I am no expert but have 16 years (1995-2011) of writing on Namibian politics in The Namibian newspaper and can probably offer you a bit more than you know about the who's who in the Namibian political zoo. You will also find a few articles commenting on other issues of concern in the country. Hope you find it interesting. - Christof

Monday, June 27, 2011

Namibia Inc: Are We A 51 Per Cent Nation?

HAVE you ever thought about it? Half of all Namibians in their prime working ages are not getting up and going to work!

It’s not what I say. Statistics, damn statistics, is what tells us this.
The Namibia Labour Force Survey (NLFS) of 2008 shows that not only are 51,2 per cent of all Namibians unemployed, but that 53 per cent of those between the ages of 25 to 29 are jobless, while 46 per cent of people between 30 and 34 years share the same predicament. It also revealed that 35 per cent of Namibians 50 years and older do not have employment.
What the above is telling us that Namibia is becoming less vital and industrious. The warning sign is in the fact that 51,2 per cent (or one out of every two) Namibians aren’t working.
Worst still, the problem is likely to deteriorate further given that the rate of population growth between 1991 and 2001 was 2,6 per cent per annum and has remained around the same for the last few years.
We are not only faced with the high unemployment rate. We also struggle in many other areas.
Namibia’s education system has failed thousands of young people who ended up in streets, our manufacturing base is very small and the production in our agricultural sector is weakening, to name but a few. Of late, we must also deal with things such as climate change.
Although I do not want to generalise it, it is a fact that Namibian institutions of higher education continue to churn out a high number of qualified graduates each year but their prospects of getting jobs also remain a pipe dream due to what they offer to the different sectors.
Such higher learning institutions get their candidates from schools.
Since the introduction of the new education system after Independence, we have not managed to even get a 52 per cent pass rate for the 30 000-odd full-time Grade 10s each year while of the 42 000 full-time candidates for Grade 12 last year, for instance, only 3 656 (8,9 per cent) received enough credits to enter institutions of higher learning.
Part of the problem at the schools is the failure of the education ministry in implementing the prescribed staffing ratio of 30 pupils to one teacher at secondary schools and 35 to one teacher at primary level. Some secondary schools have as many as 40 to 45 pupils in a class.
These are things that were supposed to be solved through the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (Etsip).
One of the goals of Vision 2030 is to see a Namibia with a population of healthy, well-educated, skilled and financially stable people with a broad range of talents, and displaying a positive attitude towards themselves and fellow citizens.
What Namibia needs now is people willing to take up the space to contest for economic and social emancipation while those who feel hamstrung by their ambition keep quiet.
We are informed that the Targeted Investment Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG), introduced by Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila during her budget introduction, is a tool to tackle the hugh unemployment evil.
But if TIPEEG, which focusses on agriculture, transport, tourism, and housing and sanitation, only benefits a few through tenders, we know that the 104 000 jobs which she announced in her speech will remain a dream.
Even though Namibia won’t be a basket case, we will remain mediocre in world rankings. We will be a 51 per cent nation despite spending gazillions on efforts to change the situation if we continue to divert money into thoughtless and self-destructive ways.
As long as we don’t act now our future economic and educational goose is cooked.
It is a festering sore, especially for those who happen to be part of the unfortunate poor.
So let’s move from talkshops to real and tangible action with visible outcomes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Are The Youth Of Liberation Movements Still On Track?

THIS week marked the Day of the African Child. It was a time for reflection, more so for those who regard themselves as leaders of tomorrow. It is thus proper to pause and reflect on what role the youth, especially those from the liberation movements of yesteryear, have played in southern Africa and what the future holds for us under their leadership.

The Day of the African Child is better known for the bloodshed in South Africa and the picture of 13-year-old Hector Pietersen, dying in the arms of Mbuyisa Makhubu and her sister, Antoinette Sithole, running alongside one another reflected the true picture of the brutal apartheid political system which stopped at nothing to keep the status quo.
Soon the liberation movements became ruling parties as the oppressive regimes made way for people’s choices.
Unfortunately, the minute they took over, the ruling parties and the state apparatus became increasingly integrated, and governments made use of this combined force to silence opposition and dissent.
As a result, what we are faced with in some African countries are authoritarian systems where there is no dividing line between the ruling party, on the one hand, and the elements of the state – the executive, legislature, and public institutions – on the other.
I think about Angola under the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Zimbabwe under Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Mozambique under de Libertação de Moçambique (known as Frelimo). In each of the above countries the political leaders have assumed that they embody the people. They run the show. They do not see themselves as representatives of the electorate.
As George Will said, there the “voters don’t decide issues, they decide who will decide issues” and politicians do as they wish.
All because the roles played by the key people in the former liberation movements are assumed to give them a very strong political, economic and moral mandate. Thus they also struggle to turn the liberation ideology into deliverable development plans and just use political platforms to recite old struggle rhetoric.
And because independence in some of those countries is still fresh in the minds of those who suffered under the old regimes, the former liberation movements get away, for long periods, with poor service delivery, while leaders argue that they have the right to rule forever.
It is also in such movements where the youth are often used by leaders.
While platforms are created to showcase the youth as radicals, they are mostly used to advance the interest of the political elite of the ruling parties. The youth will, from time to time, be allowed to disperse popular anger among fellow youth as they claim to be the authentic voice of other young people.
In such countries, when the youth are angry about poor performance of the ruling party, they do not try to remove the governments but will only call for improvement of services. In some instances, they will also demand a share of the spoils and make you wonder what the future holds for a country under such youth!
Allow me to add that not all the youth are the same.
There are those who zealously fight for a better living for the electorate but they remain a minority.
The majority are used as the voice of young people in a specific political party when conflicts arise due to leadership disputes.
We have seen many such examples in Namibia and recently in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's Zanu-PF youth wing, though, is probably not even worthy of mention as 'youth' as some of their leaders have been and are close to retirement age.
What such youth wings do, unfortunately, is to stifle the voices of other young people. Research elsewhere has shown that in countries where former liberation movements rule, the number of young people taking part in civil movements outside these leagues is small.
The principles guiding the founding fathers and mothers of the liberation movements are thrown out of the window as the new elites among the youth keep themselves busy with fighting the elders, plundering the resources of countries and serving as pawns in political games of others.
As we remember June 16, we need to bring back maturity and integrity among the young wings of liberation movements in the region.

Monday, June 13, 2011

SPYL Need To Start Own Succession Debate

RECENTLY the Swapo Party Youth League announced that it had put a lid on the Swapo presidential succession debate. It was not necessarily a good thing but it has created the time and space to debate their own succession.

Instead of fighting among themselves over who should be the Swapo presidential candidate, members of the youth wing need to take time out to critically look at their own destiny and who they want to lead them for the next five years.
That is why it was a bit shocking to also read about the amount of effort and resources used in the attempt to oust incumbent secretary, Elijah Ngurare.
Ngurare’s term is about to run out and the time and resources used to oust him could be better spent on debating the qualities they need in the next individual to head the organisation.
And such debates should be open and not clandestine evening meetings as has been with their seniors – some of whom have reportedly been sponsoring drinks for the youth.
Isn’t it what the youth wished for the presidential race? Now they need to set the example on an open intra-party debate over succession for the elders!
The youth wing are not short of firebrands and starting a debate as early as now will afford many followers the chance to critically think about their choices.
I am told that there is a school of thought among the youth that the secretary should be elected from the SPYL central committee but glancing through their constitution, I got the impression that it could be anyone who attends the congress.
Whichever it may be, I decided to throw a few names into the hat, mindful of the fact that “he or she shall not be more than 45 years of age”, as their constitution stipulates.
Chief among them is a young but well-educated leader in Lucia Ipumbu. She is popular among the youth but very media-shy although her master degree in economics could be of good benefit for the youth wing.
Her advantage is that she is a woman but so is the current deputy secretary Jutta Shikomba, who will probably also try her luck for the second time running after she could not beat Ngurare in the last one.
Shikomba is a teacher by profession and spent the past four years or more in the youth league’s inner circle as well as at the party’s head office. Having come across her several times, I would opt for Ipumbu rather than her if the gender card comes into play.
But the race will not be a race if it does not have Veikko Nekundi in it.
A strictly business-minded young man, who does not mince his words (even if sometimes it gets him into costly trouble like it did with Veiccoh Nghiwete of Foreign Affairs), he will suit the one quality SPYL constitution calls for in a secretary. That is the establishment and development of the wings’ enterprises and ventures.
But than one could also include Sacky Shanghala in that mix. The young man does not hide his love for money and last year remarked in an interview with The Namibian that politics and economics are bedfellows and cannot be separated from each other.
“If I would go into business I would host politicians and play golf with them and sponsor them – that is what a businessman does,” Shanghala said then.
What is sure about him is that he is a go-getter but whether the Black Economic Empowerment beneficiary will have enough time or be willing to leave his lucrative job and perks for the head office is not sure.
Another, perhaps an outside horse or two worth mentioning are Henny Seibeb, personal assistant to Swapo secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, as well as National Youth Council head Mandela Kapere and SPYL’s Swakopmund district secretary Sioni Iikela.
Kapere will probably prefer to stay at NYC from where he serves the youth on several boards and is relatively at ease with life but Seibeb and Iikela could welcome the challenge.
Seibeb is already in the party structures and head office and will only move offices, while for Iikela it could be a move too soon. In his case, a deputy position will probably be best.
Perhaps one very good candidate would have been Clinton Swartbooi but he has leap-frogged the position with his presidential appointment as governor of Karas.
The above list is by no means the only names SPYL needs to look at.
I have merely tried to kick-start the debate with the hope that the youth of Swapo will start to put a workable succession plan in place. It’s over to them now!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Flood Aid: Forgetting Why We Give

THE flood disaster which took over 60 lives and left thousands homeless in the North this year is being turned into a for-profit venture.

Daily our newsdesk is harassed by those who are supposedly making donations to the flood victims. They insist that we should use our front page to proclaim how compassionate their companies are towards the needy masses. But in many instances they get more out of the free publicity in newspapers and television than they actually give to the flood victims.
That is not all. As floods seem to be hitting the North with scary regularity, I wonder about the coordination of donations, whether all such donations actually reach the people and how much is spent on the administration part (such as the salaries) of those who raise the funds.
That is not to say that there are some real Samaritans out there. Not all who donate do it to get something out of it for themselves.
Since the beginning of the year we have been exposed to strong visual images in newspapers as well as on the television. There was a picture of a family being transported in a boat as they moved to a cemetery to bury their relative; another of some school pupils and a policeman who drowned after a boat in which they were travelling capsized. There were others, each as traumatic as the last.
In central Namibia as well as the southern parts of the country, the situation was not as bad as the North but still several lives were lost through drownings.
I also remember the Karasburg/Ariamsvlei road which was washed away almost overnight leaving trucks stuck on either side of the Namibia/South Africa border and some restaurants who could not serve spare ribs for a couple of days!
This week Cabinet announced that it has allocated N$35 million to repair roads damaged by floods and that up to N$500 million will be needed for the total restoration of the permanent road network in Namibia.
It is thus clear that the floods have washed away the surface of society and the settled way things have been done in the past!
But each year the floods also keep on exposing the injustices and patterns of how corrupt our society has become. It is striking how many individuals and companies just want to cash in on the inequalities facing the poor.
The thousands of people forced to abandon their homes to floodwaters are becoming victims not just of nature but of human selfishness as well.
Their troubles stem from the fact that some municipalities, especially those in the North, mismanaged or blundered in how the people were located in low-lying areas. Settling people in low lying areas or building houses there has made the damage worse than it might otherwise have been.
While it is a good thing that individuals and companies come forward to assist those in need, let us avoid that the rot setting in on how we deal with the flood victims' plight. Let us not try to cash in on the tragedy.
This we can do through more coordinated efforts. Not every Adam and Eve needs to come up with a fund, for instance. And someone needs to account for how the money is spent, which families it is given to on a properly-managed basis and arrangements made for monies that are left over once people have been assisted.
As for the future, let's us ensure that when and if this happens again, we are better prepared to withstand, or at least minimise, the negative effects of flooding.
We should learn from our mistakes.