Tuesday 13 April 2021
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When is the war on poverty starting?

It is one thing to declare a war, and quite another to turn up for the actual fight. Namibia has declared an all-out war against poverty, but those leading the troops are yet to turn up for the war. Namibians were made to believe that in 2016, Government will not do things as usual because 2016 is the year of implementation. Despite such pronouncements, Government affairs continue to be carried out in the same ordinary fashion with little change whatsoever. Harambee continues to be the buzz word, but when will the first bullet in this war be shot? Or is Namibia at war without a decent strategy? Well, one won’t be blamed for harboring such thoughts. How do you declare a war on poverty, yet we have an expanded Cabinet, employ high-earning advisors and at the same time increase the size of parliament. I thought the resources spend on the extra officials ought to have been used as ammunition during the poverty war. We can argue that Government has a strategy in place to emerge victorious in this war-which is our hope-but we also need to be mindful that the resources needed to win this war are not enough. To make matters worse, the little resources at our disposal are used for non-essential goods and services such as unnecessary trips and S&T.

The Harambee Prosperity Plan-albeit too ambitious-is well intended but the resources to meet the targets are not there because the spending priorities are in disarray.  Recent cost-cutting measures adopted by Government are laudable, but it is of no use if the executive is allowed to spend freely while other sectors are expected to keep the purse closed. The war on poverty needs a collective effort from all Namibians, but how does the foot soldiers go onto the battle field without ammunition and oblivious as to what is expected of them? It seems the war is being fought in a top-down approach instead of a bottom-up approach which would make it much easier. Foot soldiers need to know their roles because they are the ones who must implement the strategy adopted for the war against poverty. Also, if the war on poverty has begun, why is there no update as to where we currently stand in this war?

The commanders promised to make public the results of the Harambee Plan on a quarterly basis. Well, today is the end of the second quarter but there has been no feedback as to how the war is progressing. How then do we expect soldiers to continue fighting if they do not know whether they are making progress or not? Sooner or later they are bound to be demoralized because their efforts may seem to be in vain. We won the war against our political oppressors through blood, sweat, tears and self-sacrifice, Namibian leaders must ask themselves what they are willing to give up to win this war. You cannot expect those who struggle to make ends meet to sacrifice the little they have while those who drive in the tinted black and white Mercedes and BMW’s continue to live in opulence and travel at will.

If a sacrifice has to be made, it must be made by all because the end goal is the same. We need to leaders who can come to the level of the people and get their hands dirty because the war on poverty cannot be won in board rooms, parliament or Cabinet chambers. As we welcome back the commander of the Namibian army next week after his three-week long absence from the battlefield, we hope he returns with more efficient and effective strategies to tackle the poverty war because a commander does not leave his troops alone for three weeks during such intense periods.

All is not lost but there is much ground that needs to be made up. We can start by trimming the executive and parliament to a sizable number to stop the wastage of resources that could have been used to win the poverty war. We also hope that the President releases the results of the first two quarters of Harambee as a matter of urgency. As foot soldiers we want to know where we stand in this war to arm ourselves appropriately. The transparency and accountability song must be adhered to regardless of the state of affairs regarding the Harambee Plan.

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