UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE/NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE/NAMIBIA NEWS
Edition #2 23 February 1998
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CIVIL SERVICE TRIMMING: A HOT POTATO
The government of Namibia is faced with the task of trimming its 77,000 strong civil service, a figure almost double that at independence in 1990. But the road to achieving a manageable and financially sustainable civil service may yet be tough for the ruling South West Africa Peoples Organization (SWAPO).
One minister, afraid to be named, said that the exercise, to be implemented sooner rather than later, has been entrusted to the prime minister's office under a special bill yet to be passed. The minister said the exercise will look at the entire civil service including the cabinet of 27.
"It is true that most of our comrades, including some ministers, were employed on grounds that they contributed to the liberation struggle against apartheid South Africa. But who hasn't?" he asked. The minister was referring to the unemployed ex-combatants and school leavers who each year add to the list of the jobless. He said government would any time now suspend further appointments until such time that all was sorted out. "We are trying to avoid a situation where the IMF would intervene with its conditions," he added.
In a report presented to the cabinet late last year, it was disclosed that the civil service had increased from 46, 600 at independence to 77, 000 in 1997, making it financially unsustainable. The report was compiled by a High Level Committee (HLC), formed in 1996. It says that 55.4 per cent of the total government expenditure in 1995 alone went on paying civil servants. This spending goes against the World Bank recommendation that not more than 40 per cent of government's total expenditure should be spent on salaries.
As it is now the report states the government is spending over 3.25 times more on personnel than on total capital expenditure. The committee has therefore warned that unless the trend was reversed Namibia is on its way, at full speed, towards the rocks. And economic indicators show that the trend has to be reversed sooner rather than later.
Health and Education are among the most wasteful ministries through what the minister termed the employment of "ghost workers" - these being employees whose only genuine existence are as names on the government's pay roll. An investigation into this practice is to be carried out countrywide to eliminate the costly malpractice.
However, the issue gets even more complicated with thousands of ex-combatants who give the country's leadership tough moments each year. Although the government has promised to create jobs, the problem lies in the kind of jobs being offered. Some ex-combatants demand high-paying jobs which in turn demand better qualifications. Most ex-combatants, however, spent most of their youth in the bush and can neither write nor speak proper English - the country's new language of command.
And, with on the one hand departments such as the police already operating on a skeleton staff because of the lack of properly qualified people to beef up the already over-stretched force, there is on the other widespread corruption involving millions of Namibian dollars being plundered making actual job creation a nightmare.
Namibia has a population of about 1.6 million but with a varying per capita income of U$85 - U$1,600.
1. VOTER APATHY AS SWAPO WINS MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
Namibia voted in municipal elections on February 16, but voter apathy prevailed with only less than half the country voting. These were the second Local Authority elections since Independence. The first was conducted in 1992 where over 80 per cent of the registered voters then cast their votes.
According to the Director of Elections Gerhard Totemeyer less than 50 per cent of the more than 188 000 registered voters would have cast their votes by the closing time of 21h00 on February 16. Totemeyer was, however, puzzled by the low voter turn-out this year saying there is more than apathy in the population at this moment. He said it was hard to say what had gone wrong since 1992. He did say that he believed one reason could be that an estimated 20 per cent of voters had moved from one town to another but had failed to change their addresses and another on the lack of adequate voter education.
When registration started in September last year just over 180 000 people had been eligible for voting. The number, however, decreased to 176 712 in November though shooting up to 188 302 at the end of January 1998. In spite of the low turn-out, Totemeyer said the voting was peaceful and transparent.
Also there was a general feeling among voters that their vote would make no impact in a country dominated by SWAPO members.
2. A PANDORA'S BOX BEGINS TO OPEN
'Shoombe claims signature forged', 'Kandy Nehova in corruption scam', 'Minister on the rack', 'Minister denies allegations', so flash the headlines in the Namibian press almost daily.
Corruption in government seems to be escalating at what could be called an alarming rate. The case most known and carried in the papers has been that of a housing scam involving millions of Namibian dollars. And each time the case comes up, new evidence and more high ranking officials are named and slated for involvement.
The Windhoek High Court has now heard new testimony from Housing Permanent Secretary Nghidimondjila Shoombe who claimed his signature was forged on an agreement to appoint contractors for the Katutura Single Quarters upgrading project. Situated five kilometers away from Windhoek, Namibia's capital, Katutura is the township most affected by a shortage of housing many being forced to live in single rooms and ironsheet houses in the sections of Okulyangava, Babylon and Cuba.
The agreement is supposed to have been signed on July 8, 1993, by Shoombe, representing the Housing Ministry, by former Director of Housing Karl Gowaseb as a witness, and also by representatives of the three firms: Huisen Consult director Madawa Nouiseb, Alba Construction owner Ignatius Bampton and Gemada Construction representative Oiva Amweele. And Gowaseb, Nouiseb and Bampton are now three of the eight people accused of defrauding the government of more than N$6, 678 million between February 1993 and March 1996.
'According to the State, a total of N$12 123 978 was spent by the Ministry of Regional and Local Government and the National Housing Enterprise on the renovation project.
The latest person to be involved in this scam is former Housing Minister, Dr. Libertina Amathila, who is now minister for health. After first denying knowledge that she had received warning of a possible scam and also that she had worked behind Shoombe's back when authorizing the release of some of the millions, she recently back-pedaled and admitted that her office had received several updates on progress and problems at the Katutura Single Quarters project.
Law makers themselves have not been spared corruption charges with some having been accused of abusing their status when on foreign trips. A National Council financial report of November 1997 reveals that what appears to be excessive costs on the part of Michael Ndivayele, an administrative staff member of the Council, are in fact mostly those of Council Chairman Kandy Nehova. Ndivayele is said to have bagged N$66, 623,37 (about U$15, 000) for a 11-day trip to China and London from June 12 to June 23 last year.
Not long ago, a secret cabinet document leaked to the press detailed perks for senior military and government officials. Although the government claims it had withdrawn the scheme, other more secretive means have been adopted to reward officials undetected.
One top ranking official says: "This is the beginning of the opening of a Pandora's box. More scandals are yet to surface in other departments."
3. NUJOMA OPENS PARLIAMENT, SEEKS INTERNAL SOLUTION TO LAND REDISTRIBUTION
President Sam Nujoma officially opened the seventh session of the Namibian parliament last week. And his message was clear: The equitable distribution of land and employment creation are to remain high on the Government's agenda. Nujoma did, however, acknowledge that these two issues are far from being resolved with the Communal Land Bill yet to come before Parliament.
Most vocal on the redistribution of land has been the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW). NUNW's President Ponhele ya France is calling for the amendment of the Constitution to allow for land to be expropriated without compensation.
Namibia's ex-combatants have for the last three years tested Nujoma's rule by reminding him of promised jobs. Last year was probably the worst in Nujoma's seven-year reign. In a show of anger at the delayed job promises, ex-combatants spent days in the grounds of the parliament garden demanding to see President Nujoma on their unwavering demand for jobs. Nujoma's response has been to call on all Namibians to be patient. However, last year upon seeing some of his SWAPO officials taken hostage, Nujoma took the step of declaring all demonstrations illegal.
The declaration was, however, quashed by the courts as unconstitutional and infringing on the rights of citizens to associate, assemble and freely express themselves - rights guaranteed by the 1990 Constitution.
Nujoma believes the problems of land and unemployment can better be dealt with internally and by Namibians themselves: "I would like to emphasize that solutions to our problems must be conceived and implemented by ourselves as Namibians."
Adequate health services and the decentralization of Government services, were also some of the concerns Nujoma raised in his traditional keynote address.
As for the lawmakers, Nujoma said that it was their duty to utilize all available resources in the search for solutions and answers to national questions and concerns.
4. END OF NAMIBIAN PRESS HONEYMOON:EDITOR JAILED
After nearly seven years of independence, Namibia's courts sentenced on February 13, editor of The Windhoek Observer, Hannes Smith to four months imprisonment.
Smith had claimed in an article in 1996 that he had the names and documents linked to the murder of the ruling SWAPO activist Anton Lubowski. Lubowski was gunned down in cold blood outside his Windhoek house in September 1989. He is reported to have been assassinated by right wing white racists as the campaign to end apartheid heated up.
However, Smith's inconsistent statements and failure to produce the documents or to name the possible murderers earned prison. Judge Nic Hannah handed down the sentence on February 12, but suspended it to the next day to give Smith a moment of recollection on whether or not he would hand over the secret documents.
The editor stuck to his guns and would not reveal his sources saying to do so would ruin his credibility as a journalist and would be breaching journalistic ethics. The Judge said he had no option left but to send Smith to jail.
Smith's imprisonment comes amid speculation that he was already a target after he and his paper had revealed a huge arms import from Russia - Namibia's traditional arms supplier. The paper had reported that the arms import was in response to threats by neighbouring Botswana that it planned to occupy the Sitingu and Kasikili Islands.
One high ranking army officer commented on the disclosure: "This is a state secret. How can Smith report on it. He needs to be arrested." And went on to add: "If war breaks out between Namibia and Botswana, I would go for Smith first."
This event has probably marked the end of a prolonged honeymoon for journalists in this southern African state. Namibia now teams up along side other governments known for the relentless jailing of journalists. Smith is the first editor to be imprisoned in Namibia since the country's independence in 1990.
5. MORE DIAMOND MINES
Minerals Corporation (Namco) has started its marine diamond mining operations off the coast of Luderitz. The mines are expected to net an annual income of approximately N$85 million in the next couple of years. Namco is to use NamSSol, a N$48 million diamond mining system,
The NamSSol system is based on one of the most modern marine mining technologies developed for the offshore industry.It incorporates a remote controlled vehicle equipped with rubber crawler tracks and an integrated ripping/suction head, linked to a surface vessel.
It has other sophisticated features which include mounted underwater cameras, a scanning sonar and several electronic sensors, while the NamSSol and its three pumping systems will be powered from the MV Kovambo's 660 V power supply, which is boosted to 3 000 V by three on-board transformers. Namco says with NamSSol's specifications, it will treat about one million metric tons of seabed gravel per year for a target diamond recovery of 150 000 carats. A total of 52 crew members will be employed on the MV Kovambo, including24 Namibians.
Namco managing director, Alastair Holberton, says the NamSSol will be 40 per cent in production by the end of February and in full production by the end of May.
6. NATIONAL BROADCASTER SUSPENDS PRESS REVIEW SLOT
On February 7, 1998, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) announced the removal of its daily newspaper review slot from the radio. The NBC says the decision comes as a result of the 'partisanship' of newspapers and their often 'factually incorrect... stories'. The Press Review was broadcast every morning after the 07h00 news.
A few days later, however, the NBC recanted its earlier decision in which it had indicated the complete removal of the press review slot saying it would bring back the programme but "in a new format".
Asked to comment, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Information Co-ordinator, Bright Mwape said reasons given for the decision are "lame..." . Mwape said the media should not have to discredit each other as doing so "is unprofessional."
A local newspaper, The Namibian, claimed it had obtained a copy of the internal memorandum signed by Asser Ntinda, Controller of News and Current Affairs, which indicated that the review programme had been removed on political grounds. This is believed to have been due to recent news reports concerning the dispute with Botswana over the Situngu Island.
In the memo Ntinda reportedly wrote: "I have decided to cancel the newspaper review as of Monday February 2, 1998. We have been doing this quite some years now, but I strongly feel that the time has come for the newspaper review to go. There are stories that we drop editorially, only to see them coming in through the back door, disguised as a newspaper review."
Ntinda concluded his memo on the decision by saying "this ... does not in any way threaten press freedom. We uphold that right. But we have values and norms that guide us when we make editorial decisions. Our role is to create an informed public which alone can truly defend the freedoms we say we hold so dear".
The Director General Ben Mulongeni confirming the report said the national broadcaster would work out 'something better' for some form of review of the press in the future, rather than the way in which it had been done to date, by simply reading from the newspapers in question.
Local journalists simply described the decision as ridiculous.
7. NAMIBIA BOWS OUT OF THE AFRICA CUP WITH HONOUR
The Namibian National team, otherwise known as The Brave Warriors, is out of the Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Burkina Faso. But, they are not out of the Africa's Guinness Book of Soccer Records.
The Brave Warriors shocked the continent in their first ever qualifier to the Africa Cup tourney since independence in 1990. They surprised the Elephants (Ivory Coast) in their opening match. Trailing 3 - 0 in the first half, the Warriors did a surprise come back to a 3 all draw in the second half. Thanks to what could be referred to as the Elephants' lucky goal, the Brave Warriors lost 4 - 3.
Their second encounter against neighbouring Angola should have been a walk over. But the Brave Warriors blew that chance. Angola came back from a 3 - 1 edge to a 3 all draw and this earned the Warriors a staggering one point.
The next encounter was a do or die, again, against neighbouring South Africa's Bafana Bafana. This time the Warriors had most of their key warriors on the bench either due to injuries or for picking up one too many yellow cards in the previous two matches. But it was Ben McCathy versus the Warriors this time. In under 21 minutes, McCathy hit the Warriors net four times so ending Namibia's hopes of qualifying for the quarter finals.
The second half would have been a thriller as McCathy was brought back to 'normal' size. He did not score and Warriors managed to pull in one goal and hopes rose high for another surprise at this time but Bafana Bafana, knowing what the Warriors had done a week before the Africa Cup kick off, left nothing to chance. The final whistle caught the Warriors still panting to reduce the deficit. That chance never came again.
Many blamed the Warriors for the lack of a technical approach to the games as seen in the first two encounters against Ivory Coast and Angola. After drawing 3 all against Ivory Coast, the Warriors never worked a strategy to keep the all important point that would have made the difference. In their second match against Angola, it was again this lack of technical strategy that made them lose their 3 - 1 lead.
But, how was it possible for the Warriors to move such big strides into the soccer world - leaving the seasoned countries behind? Behind the Warriors is the government and its officials. On their trip to Burkina, Prime Minister Heig Geingob escorted the team and witnessed what talent his boys were harbouring. And at home in Namibia, soccer fans were glued to their television and radio sets in support. In offices and pubs,the name Brave replaced the usual complaints of low wages and petty politicking.
Yes, they are out, but Africa now feels our presence, is Geingob's message. The Warriors arrived back in Namibia on February 19 to a hero's welcome.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 07:30:14 +0100 Subject: NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE #2 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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