12 EDITORIAL Friday September 1 2017 | NEW ERA The West’s enemies are not our enemies In 1997, Nelson Mandela decided to go to Libya for an official state visit. The US State Department said it would be “disappointed” if he went to the country, which was believed by the West to be sponsoring terrorism. Mandela’s reply was simple and straightforward. He said, “How can they have the arrogance to dictate to us who our friends should be?” Mandela is without doubt Africa’s most revered leader in Western circles, but from time to time he caught his admirers in that part of the world by surprise when he went against their aspirations. Apart from the October 1997 visit to Libya, he also visited Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, to the chagrin of his worshippers in London and Washington. To the screaming headlines of Western condemnation, Mandela reminded his detractors that during South Africa’s hour of need – when powerful nations were called upon to condemn the oppression of black people by the racist minority white regime – it was Castro’s Cuba, hardly the most powerful nation in the world, that responded affirmatively. Today Namibia faces a diplomatic conundrum. The country made international headlines all week for its reported bilateral ties with North Korea, which has been widely berated for its apparent nuclear armaments programme and the firing of a missile over Japan this week. Yet we should not lose sight of the fact that the only country to have dropped nuclear bombs on Japan is the US, and those countries are strong trade partners today. Unlike its Western critics, North Korea has no history of invading other countries and the casual observer cannot help but notice that US missiles are flying daily over the skies of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen. Moreover, despite the well documented human rights violations of the Saudi regime at home and abroad, the US remains a committed trade partner of Saudi Arabia and also of nuclear armed Israel – which has never allowed inspection of its facilities. So, why the double-standard? The fact is: in Namibia’s darkest hour, when apartheid repression was at its climax and black natives were condemned to slave-like conditions in their own country, it was Pyongyang, and not New York or Paris, that heeded our cry. During the Namibian war of independence, North Korea provided significant support for the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), Swapo’s then armed wing. That country provided material aid to PLAN, and from 1965 and onwards many Swapo members went to Pyongyang to receive military training. In contrast, the West, which today professes to be the greatest defenders of human rights to have ever walked the earth, provided support to the racist regime, so that the oppression and exploitation of blacks could continue unabated. To now suggest that we, a sovereign State, may not do business with North Korea, no matter how clean and aboveboard such business is, is sheer provocation and borders on outright interference. The commercial activities Namibia engages in with North Korea have nothing to do with the purported nuclear programmes of Pyongyang, which is the mother of growing tension between that country and its Western military rivals. The contracts Namibia had with North Korea were in the area of infrastructure development, such as the construction of the Namibian State House, the Independence Museum and the defence ministry’s headquarters in Windhoek. Namibia is now under all sorts of pressure from the West, using the UN to create an impression of legitimacy, to sever ties with North Korea. The flimsy excuse being peddled is that doing business with North Korea beefs up that country’s financial abilities to develop weapons of mass destruction. What a farce! Just five months ago, every single African citizen who applied for a visa to attend the African Global Economic and Development Summit in California, USA, was rejected. The three-day conference at the University of Southern California (USC), typically brings delegations from across Africa to meet with business leaders in the US in an effort to foster partnerships. In other words, Africans are being prevented from doing business in the West – and now in the East. These unscrupulous attempts are designed to keep the continent of Africa at the bottom of the capitalist foodchain. They want us to remain at the mercy and behest of Western donors, who demand access to our natural resources in exchange for handouts. The West has absolutely no business subscribing to us who we should do business with, especially when such business is not confined to the exchange of dangerous commodities. Those who have a bone to chew with Pyongyang must take their battles far from us. We’re not a party to whatever disagreements they have and the Namibian government has a developmental mandate to fulfil towards its citizens. Government should pronounce itself on Erf 1755, Okahandja The National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) strongly condemns the anarchy that prevailed over the past weekend in Okahandja during the annual commemoration of the Red Flag Day, when supporters of Maharero Royal House and paramount chief Rukoro nearly came to blows. We must make it categorically clear that we will place the blame squarely at the doorstep of government for deliberately making sure that they pit Ovaherero against each other. The question is in whose interest is this situation allowed to continue? If government wanted this issue to be resolved they had ample time through the minister of urban and rural development to pronounce themselves on who the rightful owner of erf 1755 in Okahandja is. However, the minister chose to delay taking this decision and in the meantime anarchy and chaos reign supreme. Government should treat all Ovahereros equally from the opposing sides and must not treat those born in wedlock with velvet gloves and treat those born out of wedlock with contempt. It does not augur very well for a government that claims to be an independent party to this dispute. Equally, we cannot turn a blind eye or allow a whole nation to be taken hostage by some of our elders in the Ovaherero community, who are in the evening of their lives. It is high time these elders go back to the drawing boards and restore the dignity of the Ovaherero people by doing away with pettiness and unbecoming behaviours that eventually tarnish the name of the whole tribe in the eyes of the nation. It is sad that after most of these elders are gone – as many are close to the end of their natural lifespan – it will be left to the poor youth to clean up their mess and hope to unite once more this once proud tribe. We also should put it across that an area that has been pronounced a national monument does not anymore belong to a particular clan or family, but becomes a public entity, where people should be allowed to enter without victimisation. We just hope that the elders of this community will start talking to one another and not avoid each other for a whole year, only to meet once more after a year in Okahandja and then fight over the same issues again. Government should mediate early now in this dispute and bring closure to the issue of who is the rightful owner of erf 1755 in Okahandja. Joseph Kauandenge NUDO presidential spokesperson A Namibian president of Chinese extraction? Namibia is a beautiful country and so peaceful. But with the corruption and being blind and allowing the Chinese to rule and take over this country, we Namibians should be worried. The way things are going on we might end up with a president of Chinese extraction one day and be controlled by them. So let us, as Namibians, have faith and be ready in case something like this happens. Our country is getting bought out by the Chinese every day. Let’s hope our government will get a wakeup call and open its eyes. Michael Vieira Matric parties a waste of money Why must people be encouraged to spend a fortune on their matric dance when they are about to enter adult life and need every cent they can get. Rather change the tradition. It’s a stupid Western tradition anyway. Clinton Lang Eheke and Uukwangula feel left out Oshana Regional Council through the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development should consider assisting and upgrading the two settlements that have been in existence since 2006, namely Eheke and Uukwangula. There is nothing going on there. Julia Josě
Friday, September 1 2017| NEW ERA 13 thought leaders August 26, 1966: Its relative link to slums in Namibia >> P15 Seeing opportunities in economic downturn Transformation remains central to our national, social and economic agenda, which strives towards accelerated, sustainable and inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity. Trade fairs provide an important marketing opportunity for local entrepreneurs, especially small and medium sized enterprises. It also serves as an opportunity to network and facilitate trade through business linkages between domestic and international entrepreneurs. The beneficial effects of trade on overall economic development have been well documented. Often the focus is on international trade or trade within regional economic blocs. However, trade in goods and services within the national boundaries of a country are of equal importance and highly encouraged. We must guard against tribalism, regionalism and xenophobia. Our fellow Namibians as well as citizens of neighbouring countries are not only our brothers and sisters, they are also the same people with whom we need to develop increased trade linkages throughout Namibia and SADC. The world is fast changing around us, and we must, therefore, continuously adapt and evolve to remain relevant. Economic downturns, such as the one that Namibia and the world are emerging from, provide an excellent opportunity for governments and business sectors alike to interrogate their business models. This will give meaning to the words of Winston Churchill who said that one should “never let a good crisis go to waste”. Indeed the Namibian government used the economic downturn as an opportunity to implement far reaching budgetary and structural reform measures aimed at putting the economy on a more sustainable growth trajectory. The economic downturn was caused primarily by external factors, particularly the subdued commodity prices and the decline in SACU receipts. It was thus disappointing to note the insinuations that the economic downturn was caused by the government. This inference is directly attributable to domestic politics and has no truth to it. Just as these measures started to work and “green shoots” became visible, Moody’s, an international rating agency, downgraded us, without any attempt to understand or acknowledge our efforts. Incidentally, these deep budgetary cuts and reform measures were not implemented because of the insistence of Moody’s or others such as the IMF and World Bank. It was initiated because we value macro-economic stability, and we have a track record as such. That is why Namibia has never gone to the IMF for an economic bailout package or entertained any internationally imposed structural reform programs. Most of our debt is local and in keeping with continuing the legacy of my predecessors, I am confident enough to say that Namibia will not seek IMF bailouts or accept so-called “structural reform packages” from external parties. As a nation, we have much to be grateful for. We can be proud that we have made tremendous progress politically, economically and socially. Our governance architecture is robust, supported by a solid foundation of peace, stability and the rule of law. Without these important pre-conditions, sustained development is not possible. Notwithstanding the recent economic downturn, our macroeconomic architecture remains sound and our economic policies have helped to set us apart on the continent. We will continue to refine these policies, until we have become the most competitive economy on the African continent. We want to be competitive not for the sake of it, but because ultimately we want to see a positive change in the livelihood of all our people. This brings me to my final thought on transformation. Our socio-economic transformation agenda must always result in the tangible improvement of living standards of all Namibians. Shared growth is critical as inequality hurts the majority of Namibians who continue to be structurally excluded from effective participation in the economy. What we advocate for is broadbased participation in the economy and not just a few individuals becoming rich. In other words, we would like to see the prosperity of many business people and also to see workers sharing in the profits of companies, through employee share schemes. I was recently encouraged to hear that at Paratus Telecom, a fully Namibian-owned company, the share value of the lowest paid worker is N2,000. This means they have given shares to ordinary workers and a Namibian at the level of a cleaner enjoys an investment in shares worth that amount. This is effective empowerment and wealth creation. Many other companies are doing exceptional work with empowering their employees and I encourage these companies to share these stories with me. Empowerment should not stop at employees. Communities in which firms are operating should also benefit from profits generated in their communities. This is especially applicable for resource-based firms such as mining and fishing companies. Entrepreneurs are reminded that business should remain an expression of Namibian solutions to Namibian problems. While trading is acceptable, our Industrial Policy and Growth at Home Strategy calls on the business community to diversify the country’s manufacturing base, by adding value to commodities and other raw materials and by so doing, boosting the productive capacities of homegrown enterprises. Our development should remain locally relevant yet globally competitive. In conclusion, let us be reminded that development should be based on partnership. The theme for this year’s SADC Summit was industrialisation through partnering with the private sector. We believe that the private sector should continue to be the engine of economic growth and the creators of wealth, with the caveat that it must be shared wealth. * Dr Hage Geingob is the President of Namibia. This is an abridged version of the speech he gave at the opening at this year’s Ongwediva Annual Trade Fair. IP Day in Namibia gone silently, again Namibia has signed several international agreements upholding human and indigenous rights, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and voted for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007. Furthermore, our Constitution forbids discrimination and encourages the state to help the advancement of marginalized and disadvantaged communities. The adoption of these comprehensive legal frameworks, ipso facto, compels Namibia to observe important world events such as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IDWIP) which is observed globally on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. The observance is important to further provoke debate of the current resettlement model and seek amicable solutions to the hot ancestral land issue, promote self-determination and political representation, and take stock of progress on recommendations emanating from national programmes, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, United Nations Human Rights Council and various Universal Periodic Reviews, and perhaps also to interrogate the application of each provision under the UNDRIP. I want to believe that I will not be the only one who is wondering about the recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, in 2013. A platform like this could provide a good opportunity for the country to provide feedback on matters raised in such reports. Any progress on the White Paper on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Namibia? What is the government position on the ratification of ILO Convention No. 169? For a diverse country like Namibia, this day can further be turned into a melting pot of culture coupled with launches of research papers and public lectures in the spirit of Harambee (just to rally behind the national call for an inclusive Namibian House where no one is left out). It can also be a good opportunity for government to sensitize the public and the world at large about its programmes and activities relating to indigenous people. It is almost 10 years since the adoption of the UNDRIP (from 2007 to 2017) that Namibia has not observed this significant obligation as a UN member state. The 9th of August has passed again. This is really questionable and might be misconstrued by the world as an indication of Namibia’s commitment on issues of indigenous people. Interestingly, neither of us – be it civil society, human rights organizations and activists, government or the presidency – made a single mention about the IP Day on 9 August. I will not be the right person to answer why the IP Day is not observed in Namibia. However, it raises eyebrows and perhaps it is something that the Office of the President, the UNCHR and civil organizations can look into for next year. I assume many (including me) would humbly be willing to join this discourse for a good cause. * Rhingo Mutambo is a cultural activist, communication practitioner and author of the book: Wrongly Framed on Culture, HIV/AIDS and Sexuality. Views expressed in this article are his own, not those of his employer.