…Nahas speaks of ‘political sabotage’
By Mathias Haufiku
Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula has accused some of his fellow politicians of sabotaging him when he tabled the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) in Parliament in July 2012, saying it was a plot crafted by some politicians to undermine him. In an exclusive interview this week, Angula brushed aside any criticism levelled against him for the NEEEF implementation delay, saying there were some politicians who did not want him to succeed with having NEEEF adopted because they could not fathom having the framework adopted under his command as head of government.
Angula further maintained that the current concerns and questions surrounding NEEEF are a result of the extended time it took to implement the framework.
“Some people wanted to undermine me, therefore, they made sure it was not passed under my watch. We took so long to pass the Bill and look where we are now,” he said without revealing any names.
There are currently various regulatory frameworks or initiatives in place aimed at transforming and empowering the previously disadvantaged Namibians. These include formal initiatives by government such as the Affirmative Action Act, Land Reform Policy, Namibianisation of the fishing sector and the affirmative action loan scheme of the Agricultural Bank of Namibia. Other government initiatives include development plans such as the Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks, national development plans and Vision 2030, which envisage improving the quality of life of the people to the level of their counterparts in the developed world by the year 2030.
Despite all these initiatives, government continues to push hard to create a clear window through which blacks can be empowered.
Angula urged Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to engage the public and the business community more to explain the contents of the Bill and its ultimate objective when it comes to empowering Namibians. The former PM said NEEEF should not be seen as a tool to wheelbarrow blacks to wealth. “We cannot have a situation where blacks are given things on a silver platter. You already have some blacks who are currently richer than some of the whites and foreigners,” said the former defence minister.
Angula proposed that the Development Bank of Namibia create a special window that would allow previously disadvantaged Namibians to access capital to buy shares in white-owned companies.
“Like we did with the affirmative action loans, there must be a facility to assist blacks. But they must work for their riches and not expect things on a silver platter,” said Angula.
He further highlighted the importance of provisions in the Bill, which will compel companies to train and equip Namibians with skills needed for self-empowerment.
He said the primary purpose of NEEEF should be to promote equitable, inclusive and shared economic development to narrow income disparities between the rich and poor.
Wheelbarrowing blacks to wealth
At Bank of Namibia’s 9th Annual Symposium held in 2007 on Broad-Based Economic Empowerment (BBEE): Experiences from other Developing Countries, Angula said the nation should not understand BBEE as a tool to receive handouts, but should rather focus on making people believe in self-efficacy.
“BBEE should not be about entering into partnerships and holding shares but to be able to create new businesses, to enter into different sectors and to create opportunities such as employment.
On the other hand, the question that remains is whether there are necessary supporting structures in place for starting new businesses,” he said at the time while serving as PM.
Empowerment should make people aware of their own capabilities and inventions, Angula said.
“BBEE should, therefore, be aimed at increasing access to productive assets, whilst concurrently ensuring the productivity of those assets. Empowerment is also not about entitlement, thus it should be based on hard work, efforts and commitment,” he said.
He further told delegates that empowerment should not be about window-dressing, but it should be a partnership based on risk-sharing, trust, common interest and the desire to succeed.
Angula at the time also spoke against the use of empowerment schemes for self-enrichment.
He said: “People should see empowerment as creating an enabling environment for businesses to grow. In implementing BBEE, provision should be made for training of people on how to start up a new business, developing and mentoring the business owners and the final stage should focus on equity participation. Having said that, you would agree with me that Namibia still has a long way to go to be able to claim meaningful success in having empowered its nation economically and socially.”
The symposium concluded that in formulating strategies for the BBEE policy framework, Namibia should ensure that the formally disadvantaged groups can fully and effectively participate in the production process. This could be through employment, ownership, management and control of enterprises to ensure expansion of businesses and economic growth through collective efforts to better the life of all.
Delegates also warned against party linkages, saying: “Countries undergoing rapid industrialisation are not going to be classless but linkages to political party for personal enrichment should be closely monitored and be discouraged at all costs. Hence, Black Economic Empowerment is only one aspect of economic policy; BBEE should rather strive for the improvement of social justice and equity for all.”
One of the issues raised against NEEEF is the prevention of black entrepreneurs from selling shares to white entrepreneurs.
The majority of business owners objected to this, as it violates their fundamental constitutional rights to freedom of association, with alarm bells ringing that a few businesses may miss out on profitable business deals due to technicalities in the NEEEF Bill.
The Namibian Economist reported earlier this year that business owners had requested that the office of the Prime Minister provide procedures on how the Bill would be implemented, as entrepreneurs that are sole proprietors could find it cumbersome and punitive to give up 25 percent ownership of their enterprise or practice.
“It was further suggested that the government should set a threshold clearly indicating which businesses are eligible for the framework, for example, with regard to the size or style of a business,” stated the Namibian Economist report.
Furthermore, the evasive language of the Bill was criticised as the term “previously disadvantaged” could be inclusive of the black elite and it was thus recommended that the term be changed to “the currently disadvantaged”.