UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE/NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE/NAMIBIA NEWS
Edition #3 8 March 1998
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NAMIBIA: A BLIND DEMOCRACY?
The local election euphoria is over but the election results are raising more questions than answers. Could Namibia be another blind democracy?
This question is raised in the light of the 33.7 per cent of voters who cast their votes this year, less than half the first election results of 1992 which recorded 82.7 per cent. Although such reasons as law voter education, migration and general apathy have been given, the underlining factor has been the lack of understanding on the part of voters of what democracy entails.
The constitution limits the term of office of local authority councils to five years and Namibia was to hold its second Local Authority elections in December 1997. However, three weeks before the election date of December 2, the President changed the date to February 16, this year.
Since independence in 1990, Namibia has been ruled by the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) party. Under President Nujoma, SWAPO has governed the country with a two-thirds majority in the national assembly since 1994, holding also a clear majority in the national council, the upper chamber of parliament, and most of the regional councils.
After independence, SWAPO effectively employed its own members and supporters in the public service not only to replace but also to supplement the white dominated administration inherited from the apartheid era.
The opposition in Namibia or any other social forces do not pose significant challenge to SWAPO's leading position in Namibia's public life. At the time of the first democratic elections in 1989, there were 56 registered parties in Namibia, a country of 1.4 million. Presently, only five of these parties are represented in the parliament.
Regularly held polls are highly valued as one of the cornerstones for a young Namibian democracy. But who understands the meaning of polls? During the February 1998 local elections, the majority of the electorate asked: Why do we keep voting every time? We voted for SWAPO in the Presidential, parliamentary and other subsequent elections. Why should we keep voting today?
A Finish researcher in Political Science, Iina Soiri, claims to have an explanation: "To Namibians, when they became independent in 1990, and voted SWAPO into power, that was all. They thought that they have realised their dream but that was the beginning of a long drawn out process of democracy." Concurring with Soiri's conclusion are the results. SWAPO's stronghold, Oshakati, recorded only 23 per cent. Here the reasons are twofold, Soiri says: "First it is a sign of protest to their party SWAPO for failing to deliver goods. Secondly, voters don't have an alternative."
SWAPO had promised during the liberation struggle that it would provide jobs which never materialised, development which so far remains centralised and equal distribution of wealth, which is largely controlled by a few whites.
But why would they not vote for the opposition parties? Soiri replies: "For SWAPO supporters, its either SWAPO or nothing else." She says the reasons for this attitude are historical. Most Namibians equate SWAPO to liberation and have to remain loyal to the party that liberated them, Soiri explains.
Unlike predictions of ethnic, tribal and racial voter-pattern, the opposition Democratic Turnhill Alliance (DTA), a tribally dominated-party, lost in its own territory. Five of the seven seats in the Katima Muliro went to SWAPO. Election observers say the DTA sold itself out when it likened development to SWAPO. The campaign message to its supporters was that the Katima region was not developed because the electorate there did not vote for SWAPO. Generally, SWAPO is seen as a party with access to national resources.
At the same time, SWAPO finds the Katima Muliro, DTA's stronghold, of national importance. It has rain, which make it agriculturally viable, the disputed islands of Situngu and Kasikili Island with the potential for tourism. Being on the boarder with Zambia and Botswana, Katima is a strategic point for cross border formal and informal trade.
The election results are obviously a cause for concern, for all the political parties and the civil movement groups. What Namibia needs, observers say, is an intensified voter education on what democracy means and what processes it takes. This then lays a burden of responsibility on the ruling and opposition parties to re-strategise their voter education approach so that they achieve a participatory democracy.
But in a country where literacy and civil rights awareness rates are lower than 30 per cent, the task seems daunting. Geographically, Namibia is a semi-desert making some areas inaccessible. The population is widely scattered making effective and collective voter education impossible. Meanwhile, social, economic, racial and ethnic divisions remain, to some extent, unchecked.
Soon after independence, the once vocal civil society groups aligned themselves to SWAPO. Trade unions and other social movements became pseudo-political SWAPO alliances. For seven years they abandoned their watchdog role, a duty they only now begin to regain. The only organ of democracy that has maintained its role unwavered is the media. This makes the process of civil rights education even more difficult, as many citizens cannot read or write and still more have limited access to news.
Also, considering that Namibia is bracing for the third multi-party general elections next year, there is a time factor problem, leaving not much time for political leaders to reverse the current trend. All that politicians can bank on is the loyalty they have instilled in the electorate, influenced largely by the existing racial and ethnic hatreds.
1. TEACHERS TAKE TO THE STREETS, WARN OF FURTHER ACTION
A little over a week ago, demonstrating teachers gave a two-week ultimatum for the government to act on their grievances or face further action. The Namibia National Teachersí Union (NANTU) mobilised thousands of teachers who converged at different points across the country in a show of anger. In Windhoek, NANTUís close to 1, 000 members handed a petition to the Minister of Basic Education and Culture. This outlined a list of outstanding issues they want dealt with. A similar petition was handed to various education administrative points across the country.
In the petition, teachers say they are tired of waiting for implementation of the Wage and Salary Commission proposals and they call for government to immediately stop the implementation of staffing norms which they say are being implemented without consent of the teachersí union. Some of the demands included the call to reinstate all retrenched teachers unconditionally. The union acknowledges the employment of graduate teachers, but calls for government to stop employing graduates at the expense of teachers already in the service.
Concern was also expressed over governmentís spending patterns, which the teachers said favoured the previously advantaged sections of the community.
In their first ever come-together-action, teachers were particularly incest at the self-enriching schemes the government was planning for senior military and government officials. ìDown with self-enrichment, downî they chanted. They pointed out that government officials were busy drafting money schemes for themselves while they left the plight of teachers unattended.
Namibia has thousands of unqualified teachers in the service whose employment is threatened by governmentís plans to replace them with qualified teachers on a special Basic Education Teachersí Diploma programme.
Basic Education Minister John Mutorwa, however, said, his ministry will urgently and sympathetically study the petition and in cases of genuine legitimate concerns, the ministry will fairly investigate and take appropriate measures. Mutorwa, however, denied his ministry is implementing the staffing norms. The staffing are at this stage, still proposals, the minister said.
Mutorwa acknowledged that since independence teachers presented justifiable complaints particularly about the staffing norms as set out in the pre-independence Public Service Circular of 19987.
In some remote parts of the country, the ratio of teachers to pupils is a daunting 1:20 or worse still, 1: 60. The minister therefore advised that to achieve a fair deal in the education system, they must overcome a legacy of discrimination and segregation that was built in the education system.
During the march, however, NANTU secretary, John Nakuta, accused the ministry of education of intimidating and threatening teachers with disciplinary action if they participated in the march. But teachers, undaunted, have warned of a further action if the government does not give a sound response to their grievances. The next action the teachers plan to take has not been spelt out.
2. SOURING UNEMPLOYMENT A SOCIAL THREAT
The latest edition of the Namibia Economic Working Group's newsletter, which focuses on unemployment in Namibia, describes it as one of the most burning social issues, demanding the attention and combined efforts of all role players in the Namibian economy.
According to the national household income and expenditure survey of 1993/94, the combined rates of unemployment and underemployment were estimated to be as high as 60 per cent, consisting of 263 000 adults out of a labour force of 435 000.
The director of the Namibia Economic Policy Research Unit, Dr. Henning Melber, Government has formulated strategies which have already produced visible results. These include a document on national employment policies by the Ministry of Labour; a White Paper on Labour Based Works by the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication; and a food-for-work programme at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development which might be replaced through community-based cash for work projects.
Dr. Johann van Rooyen, director of H&E Labour Consultants, says 150, 000 people of a total labour force of 544 000 people were unemployed or severely unemployed in 1994. Government was by far the biggest employer in the formal sector with more than 70, 000 employees, with trade employing 36, 000 people and construction 19, 000 people.
By 1996, combined adult unemployment and underemployment had reached 60 per cent of the labour force, with new entrants to the labour market estimated at 20, 000 people per year.
According to Van Rooyen, unemployment in a developing country like Namibia is mainly caused by structural factors which are more difficult to address than unemployment in developed countries.
Some of the structural causes include a lack of capital and an inadequate capital market; educational deficiencies and a lack of skilled labour; the effects of a segmented labour market; low industrial productivity linked to relatively high wages; 'incongruent' work ethics; mechanisation and automation; high population growth; ecological drawbacks; regional under-development and bureaucratic encumbrances.
Non-structural include Namibia's sensitivity to fluctuations in world commodity prices, shifting trade patterns and the vagaries of major stock markets. Other factors include diminishing donor interest, over-regulation, aspects of fiscal policy and unstable industrial relations..
According to Van Rooyen, the most effective means of all would be to have the Namibian economy as a whole achieving significant growth in real terms.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Callie Schlettwein cites several factors contributing to unemployment in his article. They include the structure of the Namibian economy inherited from its colonial apartheid past which has not been able to achieve sustainable economic growth; and a small economy with an underdeveloped rural sector and a small modern sector dominated by the production and export of a few primary products and a very small manufacturing sector.
Other factors which Schlettwein mentions are Namibia's high dependence on South Africa's economy through the Southern African Customs Union and the Common Monetary Area; and a shortage of a skilled labour force, resulting in an over-dependence on expatriates.
Schlettwein also mentions equal employment opportunities through affirmative action; labour-based works to create jobs; decentralisation to increase employment in both the rural and urban areas; as well as establishment of the National Employment Policies, to be followed by the enactment of the employment services bill to provide the required legal framework.
Schlettwein concludes that everybody must become involved in the fight against unemployment. "It must be clear that the fight against unemployment is not only the task of the Government, but is the task for everyone. Unemployment is a worldwide phenomenon and affects nearly everyone, either directly or indirectly," he said.
Anne Gebhardt, the second vice president of the Namibia National Chamber of Commerce and Industry refers the unemployment causes to the limited size of the domestic market; and the economic dualism of Namibia's economy, which was previously divided into three sectors - modern white, non-white wage employment and non-white traditional.
She also alludes to the declining productivity in agriculture, which is the largest employer in the country and the weak performance of the manufacturing sector.
To reduce unemployment, Gebhardt recommends increased industrialisation, the promotion of small scale industries and the informal sector, the development of the agricultural sector, public works programmes, resettlement schemes, skills upgrading and vocational training, and job placement schemes.
3. BLACK LAWYERS SPEAK OUT
Black lawyers, once restricted to practising criminal law only, are standing up to fight the injustice. They have called on more training of black lawyers into commercial law - a section only whites handle.
The President of the Namibian Law Association (NLA), dirk Conradie, charged that even the present government, through the office of the Attorney General, contributes to the status quo. Conradie says the Attorneyís office hands most commercial cases to white lawyers only.
ìWe are not saying that just because we are black we should be handling commercial cases and not criminal cases, but that it is wrong for racism and favouritism to be practiced so openly by giving cases involving a lot of money to white lawyers,î said Conradie last week.
He went on to say that the exclusion from commercial cases was because of the existence still, of racism in big companies and parastatals. ìI do not know what the governmentís excuse is,î he asked.
According to Conradie, black lawyers approached the Attorney Generalís and the Presidentís Offices on the imbalance but their responses have not been satisfactory - and in some cases, their queries have been ignored.
Other black lawyers accuse the government of not practising of what it preaches on black empowerment. While white law firms claim that black lawyers cannot handle cases involving big moneys because they (blacks) donít have he required experience.
Some black lawyers have extended the blame to the general public. Tjipembe Kandjou, a black lawyer, says their predicament was made worse by the publicís tendency to deal with white lawyers only in commercial cases.
But the Attorney General Vekuii Rukoro says his office is hit by a shortage of staff forcing him to hand some of the cases to private law firms as most cases need intensive research. Most of these private law firms are white-owned. Rukoro further says that, when approached, some black lawyers have admitted to not being competent enough to handle complex cases.
Still, Rukoro sympathises with the predicament of black lawyers. He says most black lawyers required appropriate experience. According to Rukoro, hiring inexperienced lawyers has great financial, implications. The government, he says, cannot take any risk by engaging lawyers with inadequate experience for the sake of exposing them.
For now, Namibia does not have black advocates and it is hoped that ad hoc training would redress the imbalance.
4. OVER 10, 000 FAMILIES LIVE IN THE WINDHOEK'S SHACKS
About 10, 000 families live in shacks as a result of thousands of job seekers who trek from the rural areas into the city. President Sam Nujoma discovered this for himself when he recently visited the town council settlement areas.
Although the council was commended for trying to alleviate the plight of some township residents by affording them with low cost housing, the real challenge for the government is to create small scale jobs and businesses for the unqualified job seekers.
The tour headed by the Mayor of the city of Windhoek, Bjorn von Finckenstein, included a visit to new luxury suburbs of Windhoek.
Finckenstein did not mince words on commenting on the plight of those living in the shacks. He said the 19 yearsí injusticecannot be undone in five years, referring to former apartheid policies which neglected black communities but favoured the minority whites.
Bjorn assured the President, however, that disparities of the past in previously neglected areas have to be addressed. He acknowledged that although great strides are being made in tarring roads, installing of street lights and other improvements, much more attention needs to be done.
Katutura, a township five kilometers away from the city, has most of the residents living in abject poverty. Most of them live in ironsheet-covered shacks - making their living conditions unbearable during winter and summer seasons. Added to that, they have no pipe water, use shallow pit ratlines and general sanitation lacks.
5. GOVERNMENT'S DEFICIT CONTINUES TO GROW
The Namibian government, which recorded a surplus of N$132 million in September 1996 has now registered a deficit of N$308 million, according to the Bank of Namibiaís quarterly release for the period up to December 1997.
The governmentís total expenditure continued to rise between April and September 1997 to N2, 670 million, an increase of 25 per cent compared to the same period in 1996. This compared with the governmentís total revenue increase by a meager 5 per cent, an amount up to N$2, 362 million considering a deficit of N$308 million.
The governmentís total outstanding debts at the end of September in 1997 stood at N$2 803.1 million. This was an increase of 13.9 per cent compared to the 27.8 per cent decrease recorded in the previous quarter. The 27.8 decrease was, however, due to the South Africaís write off of Namibiaís N$1 242 million debt.
The wage bill, once again, accounted for the biggest slice of governmentís expenditure, at 57 per cent of current expenditure, roughly the same as the year before last. Capital expenditure also increased to N$235 million between April and September last year compared to N$146 million the previous year.
Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 3 per cent between October and December in 1997. This decline came mainly owing to a decline in the manufacturing and agricultural output while recording an increase in consumption spending by government.
A growth in the mining of diamonds and uranium has helped offsetsome of the government losses. Consumer inflation dropped from 9.9 in September to 8.64 per cent in December 1997. However, this was mainly due to South Africaís inflation drop. Namibia heavily relies on imports from South Africa. On the overall, the Namibian dollar depreciated by 3.8 per cent against the US dollar.
No doubt, President Sam Nujoma emphasized on ìproductivityî as a key to further economic development. The President's 2030 Vision released the week before, at least has the merit of trying to look to the longer term future. Economic analysts, however, say his target looks unrealistic. They sayeven less ambitious goals will require manyfold increases in labour productivity.
President Nujoma has stated his government's intention to improve the quality of the lives of the Namibian people to the level of their counterparts in the developed world by 2030.
But analysts argue that if this is the Nujomaís intention, he is clearly relying on the help of some very optimistic economists. A simple calculation shows that to achieve 2030 target, Namibian per capita GDP will have to grow by between 5 per cent and 10 per cent in real terms every year until 2030.
This compared with the growth achieved since Independence of about 0.5 per cent per year - less than one tenth of the lower target rate is unreal. How is such an ambitious target to be achieved, economic analysts ask.
6. MINISTER IMPLORES NAMIBIANS TO WRITE ABOUT THEIR HISTORY
Mines and Energy Minister Toivo ya Toivo called on all Namibians to write about the history of the colonial oppression, an opportunity denied at the time.
Toivo was peaking last week during the launch of a book ëGo and Come Back Homeí by Dr. Marcus Shivute. Ya Toivo, who spent some years at the Robben Island Prison in South Africa, condemned the apartheid system saying it not only prohibit one from writing but also inhibited verbal expression of talent and capacity for writing.
Now that the country was free, said Ya Toivo, it was time for people to read, write and verbally express themselves. ìA nation that reads, writes and expresses itself freely,î he said, ìis a living and progressive nation.î Speaking about the book, Ya Toivo said, it came at the right time as it brought out experiences before and after the war of liberation.
Dr. Shivute said his book was a brief glimpse into his past life. He said it did not bring out all what happened. Doing so, could be detrimental to national unity, he claims.
While calling on Namibians to embrace a reading culture, Dr. Shivute remarked: ìEducation and training have no age barrier, so that one is never too young or too old to acquire and store knowledge.î
7. PRISONERS APPEAL OVER LEG IRONS
Five prisoners at the Windhoek Central Prison have been kept in chains for over five months now, prompting an urgent appeal to the High Court and the United Nations to stop the use of leg irons.
The five - Thomas Namundjebo, Shindongo Namene, Petrus Mutukuta, Christiaan Sam Edward and Jonathan Kambonde - were involved in a break-out from Windhoek Central Prison on August 11, last year. A prison warder was severely assaulted during the break-out.
The five are arguing that being placed in irons was unlawful, violated their right to dignity and is against Article 8 of the Namibian Constitution. Article 8 states that no person may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Presiding Judge Nic Hannah refused to order the release from leg and ankle irons when he heard the application by Legal Assistance Centre lawyer Clinton Light. Judge Hannah however granted an interim ruling. The ruling will not come into effect until March 27, when the prisonís officer-in-charge and the minister of prisons appear to give reasons why the application should not succeed. The two are respondents in the case and are opposing the application.
Having failed to succeed on the application last Friday, the five are now each demanding N$150, 000 from the minister of prisons as payment for damages suffered. A sixth claim for damages amounting to N$60, has also been submitted to the minister of prisons on behalf of former inmate Norman Engelbrecht.
Light has further directed a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment at the UN Centre for Human Rights in Geneva asking that an urgent appeal be made to the Namibian government that the five inmates and all other persons presently being kept in chains in Namibia should be freed from the irons.
Most disturbing is the fact that suspects are being chained before trial or ruling, an indication that they are deemed guilty before the courts pronounce them so. ends
8. PLAYERS ASK FOR COACHíS HEAD
Most national players for the Brave Warriors have called for the removal of Coach Rusten Mogane and a German technical advisor Peter Uberjahn. Players accuse them of lacking technical skills in approaching matches.
The call comes in the wake of the elimination of the Brave Warriors in the first round of the Africa Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso. Namibia lost all its encounters but one draw against Angola. Ivory Coast beat the Warriors with a narrow 4 - 3 margin, while South Africa dashed the Warriorsí hopes of qualifying for the quarter finals with a 4 - 1 beating. The Angola encounter ended in a 3 - 3 draw.
Much has been written and talked about Moganeís removal. But some sympathise with Mogane who took the team for the first time in Namibiaís history to Africa Cup of Nations. Considering his good performance in other tough encounters, some supporters say it would premature to sack Mogane. But Mogane, as is widely seen, lacks the experience and technical approach - tools very much needed in big competitions.
Reports now trickle out of the Warriors camp of a crisis during a trial match against Niger in Niger. Lack of communication among the technical team members contributed to the Warriorsí early departure from Burkina Faso, reports say.
Players say they are particularly bitter with the coach and his technical advisor after conceding 3 - 4 against the Ivorians. Moganeís poor input against Ivory Coast, one claims, cost them dearly. ìIt is only through the fighting spirit and our own encouragement that the guys played as well as they did, especially against Ivory Coast,î said the player.
Players say Mogane and Uberjahn have assisted the team to reach this new high, however, they say: ìThey (Mogane and Uberjahn) have stagnated....î
Following these revelations and the teamís early elimination, questions abound as to whether Mogane should further take on the team for the coming encounters in the regional competitions, and soon, in August, in Africa Cup Preliminaries.
Others believe the blame should go to the players as well. You can lead a donkey to the river, but you canít force it to drink water, goes the argument. There are some players who have reached their dead end and should be replaced with upcoming players from the countryís clubs.
Some quarters favour the idea of taking on a foreign coach as other countries have done lately. Uberjahn himself concedes. It was time to bring in a change in the team - right down the ladder, he says. While Mogane urges supporters to look at the positive gains made since he took over the team. Mogane is a full-time primary school teacher.
In the coming Africa Cup of Nations, Namibia has been drawn to play Malawi in a preliminary round match when the draw was made for the 2000 Nations Cup tournament which takes place in Zimbabwe.
Namibia will play Malawi home and away on the weekends of August 1 and August 15. Against Malawi, Namibia stands a chance to qualify. In their first encounter, Namibia walloped Malawi 4 -1 in Windhoek in a COSAFA Cup match.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Sun, 08 Mar 1998 17:51:22 +0100 Subject: NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE #3 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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