Tuesday 18 May 2021
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A nuclear visit

Mathias Haufiku

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit is one hailed by the local diplomatic community as ‘historic’, but the underlying motif thereof should not be negated. India, together with Namibia and Pakistan are all vying for seats on the 48-member National Suppliers Group-an elite nuclear club that dictate the nuclear affairs of the world. As much as Namibia’s constantly claims that it is a child of international solidarity, it is also important to note that on the international diplomatic front there are no real friends, only friends with interests. Namibia and India enjoy sound bilateral ties, so much so that 100 of our brothers and sisters are studying in that country, but if we are going to heed India’s demand for our uranium, careful thought should be placed into it. President Mukherjee’s visit shows that Namibia can attract major global players, but that should not cloud our judgement. India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power programme and expects to have 14.6 GWe nuclear capacity on line by 2024 and 63 GWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050. Considering our looming energy crisis, Government needs to enter into agreements with India related to energy production. It will be unjust for the millions of Namibians who are waiting to benefit from the State resources to sit without electricity while their uranium is shipped out of the country to produce electricity elsewhere.

A major challenge however will be the fact that India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons programme. This means as Namibia we are barred by the Pelindaba Treaty to which we are a signatory, through the African Union, to supply India with nuclear. India is keen to procure uranium from Namibia but a cooperation agreement signed by the two countries in 2009 has not been able to take off as it is yet to be ratified by Namibian parliament. This once again exposes Government inability to thoroughly study international agreements before committing. Now we have uranium and a partner that can help us solve our energy woes by producing nuclear energy-but historic agreements entered into blindly stands in our way. Uranium continues to be a lucrative resource on the global front, especially when it comes to producing weapons, but despite this Namibia continues to benefit little from its precious resource because the uranium industry is the cash-cow of foreign-owned mining firms. As the public we will never really know the type of discussions that took place at State House yesterday, apart from the political statements, but we surely hope anything decided going forward places the interests of Namibians in pole position.

The AR march
While the officials were having discussions with tea and biscuits within taxpayer-funded State House, hundreds of taxpayers braced the winter sun to make known that they oppose the planned construction of a new parliament building. “Nothing for us without us”, “You[Government] say the new parliament is for us, we say we do not want it.” Those were just some of the slogans being chanted at yesterday’s demonstration. President Mukherjee’s visit meant the demonstrators could not access the Parliament premises due to safety reasons, but it seems more like a ploy orchestrated to avoid a diplomatic embarrassment. After all, the visit seeks to promote business between the two countries. Knowing that if investors were to get sight of any sight of demonstration or riots would be a huge turnoff to investors. The agreement struck between the Namibian Police and Affirmative Repositioning is worth noting, it also shows that the police is in agreement that the march is not meant to cause any upheaval but merely citizens practicing their rights within the confines of the law.

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