UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE/NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE/NAMIBIA NEWS
Edition #8 20 June 1998
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'Contrasting, beautiful Namibia, Namibia our Country ...' so wafts, in part, Namibia's National Anthem. Rightly so, Namibia is a land full of contrasts, not only in landscape, weather, fauna and flora, culture and worth, but in people. Namibian people display the most astounding contrasts of all nature. One of these is in their call for the constitution to be repealed - the same constitution they all said was a true reflection of their hopes, beliefs and aspirations at independence in 1990.
No doubt, it's just as contrasting when the citizens call for an amendment to the constitution in order to make way for Dr. Sam Nujoma. Many of the citizens say the constitution should not be allowed to stand in the way of Nujoma's bid to run for more than two terms. They argue that the constitution is not above the people who created it and MUST be amended.But why then Nujoma? And after Nujoma, will the constitution be amended to its original two five-year presidency?
For President Nujoma, it is clear: He says, at 69, he is still healthy and has a political will to run for the third term. Interestingly, Nujoma, knowing he has strong backing from the electorate, leaves no loophole and says, if there will be any obstacle to his or electorate's quest, he will call for a referendum to decide on the matter.
Nujoma's image of an idol further enhances his will to run for the third term. As former President of Malawi Hastings Banda was to his people synonymous with liberation, peace, law and order, Nujoma is to Namibians the irreplaceable icon of the liberation struggle, unity, peace and development.
There are other equally valid factors. Nujoma hails from a minor ethnic group of a majority tribe. It is this majority tribe that makes up the South West Africa Peoples Organisation (SWAPO), a majority party. It is the same majority SWAPO members that agitate for a third term for Nujoma and the consequential amendment of the constitution to make way for their beloved leader, should there be any obstacle.
So, come 1999, Nujoma will no doubt stand for the third term. Other political analysts put reasons for Nujoma's choice differently. SWAPO as a party has long standing internal feuds resulting from a powers struggle. An attempt last year to provide a solution rather more highlighted this internal power struggle than determined the party's future. Prime Minister Hage Geingob stood for SWAPO's vice presidency at the party's second Congress. Geingob was defeated, much to his embarrassment, by his deputy who is also vice president of the party- Hendrick Witbooi.
However, the endorsement for Witbooi to remain as SWAPO's vice president did not necessarily endorse him as future national president. Both Geingob and Witbooi are Nujoma's political balancing cards for wooing their smaller, but influential, tribes. Influential because of their historical role.
Though small in number, Geingob's tribe, arguably, has more enlightened people than most of the 13 tribes in the country, while Witbooi's tribe enjoys a historical score against the Germans in the early 1900s. However, Geingob's decision to stand for vice presidency was itself seen as a crusade for more power - presidential power - since in the event that Nujoma steps down, is incapacitated, or dies, his [Nujoma's] vice becomes the automatic successor.
There is the other side to the choice for Nujoma. A top analyst in government says SWAPO and Nujoma have nationalised their internal party feuds to become part of the broader national issues. In his book, 'Namibia: Wall of Silence,' author Pastor Siegfried Groth, saw this inter-tribal and political power struggle within SWAPO. This power struggle led to many (none-Vambos and none-Hereros) being victims of torture or being singled out as spies of SWAPO.
This, in part, explains the resistance on the part of SWAPO vigilantes to account for the past. It is widely perceived, however, that SWAPO is the only party that can and will for many years govern Namibia because of the majority ethnic support it enjoys. For now, this could be true, as the small opposition parties have not yet put their act together in preference for tribal politics.
Each opposition party represents a sect of closely related tribes. SWAPO's supporters hide no emotions: "No other tribe can rule this country apart from us Vambos," a senior government official declares at an informal social gathering. It is the same talk and feeling everywhere. There is also the argument that Nujoma has not committed serious enough 'offences' in his first two terms that he should not deserve a third term.
Most Namibians compare themselves with neighbouring Zambia, Angola and other SADC states where Nujoma's counterparts have drastically failed in many issues. Under Nujoma, Namibia is said to be the most transparent government in the SADC.However, as Namibia's first democratically elected president, Nujoma faces a number of challenges in his political career.
In the last eight years, social, political and economic hiccups have persisted and continue to present the greatest challenge for Nujoma and his government.These failures have, by and large, contributed to voter apathy as was evident in the local elections this February. Nujoma will have to convince the majority poor before he can unanimously be voted into power come elections in 1999. Added to this, Nujoma's third term bid has not gone unchecked.
The opposition, equally puzzled at Nujoma's decision, says perhaps SWAPO does not have any more suitable candidates for the presidency. As in the fashion of Banda's protÈgÈs, SWAPO's elite eternalises Nujoma as their only dynamic and foresighted Messiah, full of wisdom. With this, the opposition believes Namibia is way on the path as that of Zimbabwe's authoritarian regime.
SWAPO parliamentarians have ignored all criticism and alternative reasoning. Instead, they have began lobbying, harnessing, and bulldozing the idea of Nujoma being the sole candidate. Some SWAPO diehards have begun to feed the electorate with rather lame excuses. They say it will be less expensive for the state if Nujoma was left to run. "Imagine, every ten years you have a new president! In fifty years time, we will have five retired presidents all housed with state funds, all needing state body guards, state salaries and allowances. Do we have the resources?"
This excuse meets serious retort from the opposition who say that with or without resources, the system Namibia chose in 1990 - democracy - is a very expensive one. They therefore refuse to be bogged down in the cheap excuses and say "we have to pay up." There is, however, a constitutional explanation to having Nujoma run a third term. Constitutionally, Nujoma has only run for one five-year term. This is an explanation that comes from SWAPO's polit-bureau. This raises the question of when did the first term for Nujoma end.
But what happens afterwards? Will the constitution be amended again after Nujoma? The Attorney-General's office, which also says there is nothing legally wrong in amending the constitution, refuses to be dragged into ponderings on the legal aftermath in the event that the constitution is amended. Instead it says: "This is a sensitive issue. It is a major policy matter.For now, the question is whether the constitution will be amended or not.For now, there is no clarity on the matter. For now, it is not a legal matter." The office adds that the issue will be decided during the party's extra-ordinary congress two months away.
The situation does not look really rosy for Uncle Sam. The constitution says any amendment can only go ahead if supported by two thirds majority from both Houses - national council and national assembly. That includes a call for the referendum by the president. Any referendum will have to be backed up by a bill which should have the support of two thirds majority of each house. Will it be possible? Ask Nujoma.
1. NUJOMA WARNS OF COMMERCIAL LAND TAXATION
President Sam Nujoma has threatened to impose heavy taxes on farmers who over-price their land to the government. Nujoma was speaking at an informal gathering with mainly white farmers in an attempt to pursuade them to make land available at reasonable prices than is now being offered.
The Namibian government plans to buy land for the landless black majority. Most of the land is currently under the ownership of whites. Nujoma's concern was that the prohibitive pricing was making it impossible for the government to resettle the landless Namibians.
Meanwhile, parliament has moved a motion introducing an agricultural land tax in the country, Deputy minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Marten Kapewasha revealed at the end of May. The motion, once made into law, would enable the government to appropriate land easier than is the case now. In its present state, the constitution prohibits the appropriation of land from anyone.
A land tax, said Kapewasha, has been put as an option in the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Bill stating that government "may impose a land tax to be paid" by the owners. It adds that as well as prescribe the rate, it will impose penalties for failure to pay such taxes. But the Bill will first have to be approved by the National Assembly.
Last year, the government bought 14 farms at N$48 million (about U$12 million). So far, 18, 000 individuals and their animals have been resettled. However, landlessness is still far from being resolved.
The opposition has pointed out that government must provide proper guidelines on its resettlement programme. The opposition wonders whether the land purchased would be put to productive use as is the case with occupants of commercial farms.
2. ANGOLAN ACTIVIST/REFUGEE DEPORTED
The forcible deportation in May of an Angolan human rights activist has shocked many foreign governments and international human rights organisations. They say human rights violations for Namibia was never among their issues of contention until Dr. Manuel Neto was bundled up and deported in a style unlike any before.
On May 18, 1998, Neto was reported missing by a Namibian human rights group - National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). Neto was apparently preparing a trip to South Africa when he received a call from the country's Home Affairs Ministry. He was arrested on arrival at the ministry, bundled up and repatriated to his home country, Angola.
The government initial explanation was that Neto, a refugee and Executive Director of the Windhoek-based Angola League for Human Rights (LADH), was a 'prohibited immigrant'. Later, Home Affairs ministry said Neto was a threat to state security. It not elaborate. But NSHR reported that Neto's arrest and deportation was aimed at silencing LADH from voicing human rights violations in Angola.
Prior to his arrest, immigration officials reportedly gave Neto an ultimatum - to choose between his refugee status or being an Executive Director of LADH. He reportedly "chose both".
The LADH was launched early this May to monitor human rights in Angola. It had been registered in Namibia as a non-profit-making organisation under the Companies Act of 1973. Neto was appointed LADH's Executive Director.
However, Angola's Ambassador to Namibia, Garcia Bires reportedly dismissed LADH saying it was "one of the doors UNITA has found to be present in Namibia". UNITA is the armed opposition group that has been fighting the Angolan government for over 20 years. Bires reported the matter to Namibia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was told that the Government did not recognise the league.
The arrest and the forced deportation of Neto has earned Namibia a strong reprimand from the concerned parties. Although the government has maintained it acted in line with its laws, it failed to justify the cause for such a speedy repatriation, say international human rights organisations.
Human Rights Watch condemned Namibia's disregard for international refugee law, especially the principle of 'non-refoulement' - which forbids the forcible return of a refugee to a country where his life or freedom might be threatened. Neto is however reported safe and with his family in Angola.
3. SADC HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS SPEAK OUT
They condemn governments and ask for sanctions. Instead, the condemned get a bonus of more and more aid, was the observation by southern African human rights monitoring groups late this May.
In a statement issued in Johannesburg, South Africa, participants observed with dismay that while concerned organisations were sweating, calling on donor countries to punish those violating human rights, the response has been more baffling than encouraging.
Over the years, the SADC member countries, notably Zimbabwe, Zambia and Swaziland, have constantly violated fundamental human rights. However, it would appear that the donor community is paying a deaf ear to calls that such countries should be punished. More and more aid has come through to the very offenders, observed delegates.
This call comes in the belief that democracy without the respect of human rights is meaningless. Hence the pressure on the SADC state not only to embrace democracy as an ideal but also as a tool for guarding against abuse of power and for encouraging respect for the rule of law. Currently, governments get away with broad day light violations as those with the teeth to bite are doing nothing to help.
4. GOVERNMENT SECURES OWN BUILDINGS, BUT...
Having suffered high rents for the last seven years, the government has finally secured its own buildings. It has built new offices for almost the entire civil service.
Government mooted the idea a few years ago including prohibitive rental fees of up to one million rands a year - money that either went to neighbouring South Africa or overseas - as the reasons.
Ideal as the idea might have been, it has created an economic rift. Owners of the empty buildings have not found occupants to fill the empty space. And in a small economy like Namibia, the government was the only reliable client to pay the exorbitant rentals.
However, all is not well with the new buildings. There is suspicion that an underhand deal prevailed at the project, judging from the design of the buildings. Those who have so far shifted to the new buildings complain of inadequate ventilation and a lack of washrooms. Some of the new buildings have already started cracking.
5. THE SADC MOVES ON AGAINST DESERTIFICATION
With millions of trees being felled yearly, unchecked soil erosion and ill-farming practices prevalent in southern Africa, the SADC countries have agreed to establish a Multi-Disciplinary Science and Technology Consultative Committee (MSTCC).
The MSTCC, which is to begin its operations as early as October this year, has been mandated to do relevant research and information gathering, analyse and interpret its findings. The MSTCC is also to facilitate the exchange of information between SADC member states.
This move has been taken to combat and mitigate desertification and drought through the provision of up-to-date information, recommendations and acquisition of appropriate technologies and their application.
The SADC is threatened with desertification and endless drought if current rate of felling trees, poor farming methods and erosion are left unchecked. Most of the current adverse weather have been blamed on the lack of control on the above factors.
6. THE CHINESE ARE HERE!
While for Americans it is a struggle to penetrate the Namibian market, the Chinese it their way and have invaded Namibia with their inferior goods throughout major towns.
In under two years of their arrival in Namibia, the Chinese traders have managed to occupy most of the city's cornershops and those of outlying districts without much ado.
But their goods leave a lot to be desired. Almost all are imitations, only lasting, at most, three months. This in the face of authorities of trade who have granted trading licenses without regard to quality control and copyright laws.
The Chinese trade in just about anything available - from plastic products to electronic goods, underpants to suits and blankets.
And the Americans?: "We wonder why Namibia does not open up to us. We have tried to cooperate in trade and even militarily, and we have gone nowhere," says a US embassy diplomat in Windhoek.
7. NAMIBIA DIVIDED OVER THE JUNTA'S DEATH
A random survey on how Namibians feel over the death of the Nigerian killer junta reveals a clear divide of opinion towards General Sani Abacha. The youth speak "without remorse" over the death of Abacha while authorities have taken a more cautious approach.
"In simple terms," says a 27-year old President of the Namibian Movement of Independent Candidates Joseph Kauandenge, "he was a killer who never showed remorse for killing innocent people and what he represented was a generation of dictators not needed anymore on the surface of this black continent." Kauandenge says Abacha's death is "timely and welcome".
Says a reporter at a government paper, New Era: "I am happy this man has died. He killed." And one reader on the streets says: "No tears over such leaders." A letter writer to a local newspaper congratulates the people of Nigeria on the "timely departure of Abacha".
In all, there is nothing shocking for most average Namibians but just another day in business as news filtered through on that the junta had "escaped justice".
However, President Sam Nujoma on the other hand has reacted differently to what his nation see as this "timely death". Nujoma says he is saddened by the death of Abacha. Nujoma was due to visit the junta and was expected to receive the 1998 Nnandi Azikiwe Prize for Political Leadership. Nigeria's Public Policy Research Analysis Centre was to award the prize.
Understandably, Nujoma's sadness comes from the pre-independence assistance given to Namibia by the Nigerian government during its (Namibia's) forced occupation by South Africa. This is the assistance most young people put aside in preference to human rights observance and respect for the rule of law - the criteria Nigeria's late Sani Abacha blatantly ignored.
8. NAMIBIA'S SOCCER NEEDS REVAMPING
Namibia's soccer honeymoon does seem to be over. Since January this year and after the Africa Cup of Nations drama, Namibia has not won a single match while, instead, controversies have taken root.
Namibia's first win against South Africa this year had every soccer lover believing there would be no more weeping and banging of heads in anger. But their second match against Zimbabwe in a COSAFA Castle Cup turned that hope into another fantasy. Namibia went down 2 - 5 in Harare.
In Angola this May end, Namibia could only afford a one all draw at home. With all its foreign-based players present, Namibia wasted most of the golden chances - including a penalty - that could have been easy goals. Angola, fighting from behind leveled the scores in the second half and did everything possible to maintain the status quo.
This unconvincing performance has fears and doubts rife as the day draws closer to another tough encounter against the rejuvenated Zambia this August. The last time Zambia played Namibia was in Windhoek against a side that no longer exists.
The thought of playing Zambia brings about enough nightmares. Playing them in their backyard spells sure elimination of Namibia from the Castle Cup. Zambia sacked its entire team after a poor showing in Bukina Faso. Good at rebuilding, Zambia now has a 'no nonsense' side of youths. It held world cup qualifiers South Africa to a one all draw in Johannesburg this May.
It however appears that Namibia has not recovered from the turbulence of Africa Cup drama which saw them eliminated from the tourney in the opening round. This followed the sacking of their coach and its entire technical team. Some players hid nothing but went on openly to condemn their coach for lacking technical approach to crucial games.
It did not stop there. An attempt to hire a new caretaker coach from neighbouring South Africa was met with a combination of xenophobia, pride and jealousy. However, the new coach, Mlungisi Ngubane, survived this barrage of unfortunate events. But, his first loss against Zimbabwe had him back on the carpet with demands that he should pack up and go.
A face saver against Saudi Arabia in France had the supporters momentarily resting their anger but the draw against Angola invoked further doubt. Ngubane's survival now depends very much on the outcome with the dreaded Zambia.
After the Angola encounter, a local newspaper summed it up: "... Oddly, the three officials on the Namibian bench... sat with folded arms as if in a trance throughout the match... It seems that it will take quite a while before Namibian officials become used to the high demands of international football..."
One spectator had this to say: "Namibia should never assume that their soccer standards ever went up. Soccer is funny... They should not judge themselves by a few unexpected wins last year. Namibia's soccer needs serious revamping to start with."
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Sat, 20 Jun 1998 08:38:29 +0200 Subject: NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE #8 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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