… Defence explains need for secrecy
“Preparation plans for the defence of the country cannot be shared with everyone all the time because by doing so you might be exposing your strengths and weaknesses to potential enemies. For this reason, there is a need to maintain some degree of secrecy when it comes to issues related to the defence of the country. However, this does not mean the Ministry and the Namibian Defence Force should fail to account and be transparent to the Namibian people, the taxpayers who provide funding for the defence programmes and operations,” he told The Patriot when asked about the secret nature of the army.
By nature, said the minister, defence ministries and armed forces all over the world are predisposed towards some degree of secrecy given the nature of their roles and functions.
“So, we are not surprised by public perception that the Ministry is being secretive because not every member of the public has a good understanding regarding the role and responsibilities of the Ministry of Defence and the Namibian Defence Force,” Ya Ndakolo indicated.
He also denied claims that the defence procurement procedures are under wraps and the public does not access to the Ministry’s books.
“In reality, there are established procurement procedures for the procurement for the defence assets, equipment and materials. Non-sensitive defence items are procured through the normal public tender procedures while sensitive items are procured through Government established procedure and systems, including their approval by the Cabinet Committee on Defence, Security and International Relation (CCDSIR).
“I can assure the Namibian public that there is nothing procured by the Ministry and Namibian Defence Force without following the established Government procurement procedures.
For accountability purposes, the Ministry reports to Cabinet and annually to Parliament regarding its performance and the utilization of the money allocated to it through the National Budget. So far, neither Cabinet nor Parliament has ever reprimanded us for failing to account,” he said.
The former Oshikoto regional governor also pointed out that: “Namibia is not an island. We are part of the greater world and thus what affect the rest of the world affects Namibia.”
According to Ya Ndakolo, the most prominent threats to Namibia and the world at large are terrorism, arms, drug and human trafficking, secessionism, piracy, social ills that cause instability (such unemployment and tribalism), border disputes and competition for natural resources, including water.
“So, we do not live in an ideal world, there are real security threats out there and all countries, as individuals or as a collective, should prepare to defend and protect their national as well as international interests.”
But despite the fancy explanations by Ya Ndakolo, the reality on the ground is still that the accountability and transparency levels to the public leaves much to be desired.
The main culprit in this regard is the infamous army’s commercial arm – August 26 Holdings.
Despite landing government contracts worth billions of rand, it could not be ascertained whether August 26 has ever produced any annual report that has been publicly audited by the auditor general and has ever appeared before a parliamentary committee to account for its activities.
Some of its subsidiaries include August 26 Logistics, Windhoeker Maschinenfabrik, August 26 Industries, Sat-Com, August 26 UBM, August 26 Textile and Garment, NamForce and Agri-Tour.
Spending amid peace
Ya Ndakolo also explained the need for defence spending despite the peaceful environment across the country with no imminent threats in sight, instead of listening to those calling on Treasury to cut the defence budget and use it for other pressing development needs of the country.
Namibia’s defence budget has more than doubled since 2010, rising from N$2.6 billion in 2009/10 to N$6.6 billion in 2016. The public has often questioned the spending saying it does not make sense for a peaceful, stable country with no immediate enemies to spend a huge chunk of its budget on the army.
“It is true that the Ministry of Defence and Namibian Defence Force budget has more than doubled those years for several reasons, including the need to strengthen and improve the Defence posture of the Namibian Defence Force,” said the minister.
He added: “Whatever the Ministry of Defence and Namibian Defence Force are doing is of defensive nature, we are not preparing to invade anybody, but we must be in a position to send a clear message to those who might intend to attack Namibia or cause disturbance that might jeopardize the security of the state.
“To say the money could be used for other development needs is like comparing an egg to a chicken. What does Namibia want to have development without security? Will that be sustainable? Or security without development? So, it is a balancing act. Namibia, like many other countries, has to find a way of balancing the way it allocates resources to the different demands and needs facing the country,” he said.
The minister reiterated that “no development can take place under instability”.
“For a country to have space for development it has to ensure its security. The most developed countries in the world have the strongest armies, why? Again the notion of no threat should not blind us or lead us to take the peace that our country is enjoying for granted. You can only have peace if you are prepared to seek and maintain peace and that means preparing yourselves politically, diplomatically and if everything else fails, militarily.”
He conceded that there are many competing national needs for which resources have to be allocated, however, “we believe that it should not be done by neglecting our security and proper resourcing of our Defence Force”.
The minister warned that: “Today’s geo-political situation is unpredictable and evolving at a greater speed, we have seen friends who have turned enemies unexpectedly. Therefore, even though Namibia enjoys a stable situation internally and has trusted neighbours, one never knows where a threat could come from. There are imminent security threats all over the world including, terrorism and the constant fight for resources and territories for domination.
“In short, Namibia does not have to wait for a hostile situation to develop in order to start preparing for its defence and protection. That has to be done right now.”