President Hage Geingob is of the opinion that Namibia “is in great shape” and that those who are disputing that the Namibia of today is miles apart to the Namibia at Independence have donned the hat of pessimism.
As expected on Tuesday in the National Assembly, Geingob State of the Nation Address was overshadowed by his Harambee Prosperity Plan which he launched on the same day.
Geingob boasted about his track record during his first year in office, and took account of some of the things he promised when he entered office.
This included the declaration of his assets, that of lawmakers and civil servants, enactment of the Public Procurement Bill, compelling ministers to compile declarations of intent and the introduction of performance agreements.
Geingob reiterated that reducing poverty and inequality has always been a Swapo policy as contained in its manifestos.
Geingob promised to construct 20,000 new houses nationwide, service a minimum of 26,000 new residential plots countrywide, construct 50,000 rural toilets and eliminate the bucket system by 2017.
“The Harambee Plan does not replace Governing Party policy documents or National Development roadmaps but complements our shared long-term prosperity goal, by targeting implementation limitations and accelerating development in the short-term,” he said.
Geingob also said: “Harambee Plan does not pretend to be the universal panacea that will resolve the numerous causes of poverty with the remaining four years.”
Despite stating last year that his administration wants to eliminate poverty, Geingob this time around only said some of the key outcomes pending the successful implementation of the plan include poverty reduction, broader participation in the economy and improved access to service land.
Surprisingly, Geingob did not indicate the amount of money required to successfully implement the Plan.
Geingob acknowledged that the need to urgently avail resources to ensure the provision of affordable land and housing to our people is undeniable.
“The local and regional authorities no longer have the luxury of time and are required to act with the urgency this issue demands. The attempted land grabs in Walvis Bay recently are testament to this urgency. Government will never condone illegal land grabs but in the same vein, we will no longer tolerate the slow implementation of agreed upon strategies to resolve these issues,” he asserted.
Geingob expressed concern over what he calls an “opportunistic attempt” to hijack the genuine and valid land concerns of Namibians in order to incite violence and disorder.
“This was evidenced by the false rumours circulated in Walvis Bay that erven intended for Mass Housing was sold to private Developers,” he said. Geingob said official opposition party Members of Parliament (MPs) who are of the notion that the envisaged parliament belongs to the Swapo Party, should “get out of the house” as it belongs to the Namibian people.
Geingob was responding to questions posed by Venaani and other members of official opposition parties pertaining to various issues on the state of the country, including the salaries of his special advisory team and the genocide reparations negotiations between the Namibian and German government.
Geingob said Parliament does not belong to the Swapo Party, nor the DTA.
He then spoke on allegations made in the local media that he earned an income of N$2 million.
“Don’t ask me that question. When I said I don’t know, I meant it,” the President said.
Taking offence at Geingob’s statement, Venaani said leaders should shy away from arrogant statements.
“Parliament belongs to the people of the country. Let’s remain leaders when answering others and have decorum as leaders,” Venaani stated.
A day after Geingob’s address, it was Venaani’s turn to deliver what he called the ‘real’ state of the nation address.
Venaani said his address is not meant to insult the President, but rather a new way of doing things.
“We are merely modernizing the political discourse in the country. What the President delivered was not a SONA, but merely the launching of his Harambee Plan,” he said.
“Geingob sold us another plan, he did not tell us about the economy, housing situation or how about the security of the country.”
Venaani described the Harambee Plan as an “over-ambitious” initiative.
“The Harambee Prosperity Plan provides little insight as to the state of our nation. We planned this event well in advance but in hindsight and considering the President’s no-show I believe we will present you with the Real State of the Nation which is an account that considers the realities of our society,” he said.
“He failed to touch on topics such as healthcare, education and the economy because he knows all is not well,” claimed Venaani.
Venaani accused government of failing to diversify the economy, hence the constant increasing inflation and repo rates.
“Our situation is precarious,” Venaani said regarding Namibia’s foreign policy.
“It is unacceptable that we are in bed with North Korea, this was a decision made without hindsight and we must renegotiate the terms of engagement because it is unacceptable and irresponsible in its current format.
Venaani also questioned government’s efforts to empower SMEs.
“You cannot grow the economy if you do not empower SMEs, that is why we are failing,” he said.
“The informal economy often presents little, if any, opportunity for socioeconomic advancement and in an effort to address this we propose a targeted state subsidy as well as access to low-cost credit facilities for informal traders and vendors,” said Venaani.
He also noted that access to such opportunities should be contingent on the registration of informal business with Government which in turn would facilitate the development and establishment of the abovementioned regulatory framework.
“In this manner our endeavour is to create decent employment that is able to lift those engaged in informal economic activities out of the trap of poverty as well as to broaden the economic base of our country,” he said.
He also called for reforms in the country’s property ownership regime.
“It cannot be right that the rural economy is dead when it comes to housing because people cannot use their homes as collateral to access financing.”
Venaani also lamented government plan to devise measures to tax those trading in the informal sector of the economy.
“The focus is on the man of the street while they[government] is bypassing the big multinational companies that are not investing their profits in Namibia,” he said.
Venaani said: “Let us first empower the small companies to become big economic players and then we can think of taxing them, instead of killing them from the onset.”
Borrowing money to cover debt
Venaani also accused government of borrowing money on the international markets to cover debt, saying the practice is not sustainable.
“This money is being spent to cover non-productive expenditure and where employment is generated it is neither long-term, sustainable nor will it lift Namibian people out of poverty and grow the economy to an extent where we will be able to repay this debt,” he charged.
By the end of last year, Namibia’s Eurobond debt had exceeded N$19.4 billion, an increase of N$13.66 billion from the end of 2014.