At the height of a teetering economy, high unemployment levels and a decaying education sector to name but a few, vice president of United Democratic Front (UDF), Dudu Murorua says Namibia’s woes can be attributed to the fact that the nation went into a relaxation mode shortly after the attainment of political independence in 1990.
Speaking to The Patriot over a lengthy telephonic interview recently, Murorua shared his views as to why Namibia finds itself between a rock and a hard place, just 27 years into its independence.
Namibians thought “everything will sort itself out”, according to Murorua.
“We went into a state of relaxation after independence in my opinion. The freedom struggle era was very fierce and we were fighting to get independence. But to get economic independence, we probably just assumed that everything will come by itself which is not the case at all. We believed that now that we are independent, everything will come our way,” said the 59-year-old politician.
He added: “That is why investors saw the opportunity (took advantage) of the relaxation and that’s why you hear that there are so many foreign businesses operating in Namibia. They are doing construction, transportation and all those kinds of things which are things that we the Namibians could have been doing.”
The former Kunene governor was quick to note that he was not xenophobic nor was he against foreign investors.
Murorua, however, said just like other countries put the interests of their citizens at the fore of their development, Namibia should be no exception.
“It is not that I am xenophobic, but we can do more with our own people. This is what other countries are doing. Look at China, they are working with their own people, look at South Korea. Everywhere in the world, governments are spending money on their own people and the people are investing in their education,” said the former Kunene governor.
Murorua joins government critics who accuse the state of being “unpatriotic” and of not putting the interests of Namibians first.
A case in point is the tussle between the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Namibian Society of Engineers (NASE) over the renewal of employment contracts of at least 85 expats by the ministry of works.
The 85 foreign experts are currently employed by the works ministry under the MoU between Namibia and Zimbabwe. The MoU was signed in 2012.
In a widely contested move, the works ministry opted to renew the contracts of the expats on grounds that Namibia had a shortage of home-bread engineers, architects and quantity surveyors 27 years after independence.
However, NASE opposed the renewal or extension of employment contracts of the 85 Zimbabwean expatriates without first advertising those positions to registered qualified Namibian professionals.
NASE went as far as submitting over 300 resumes of unemployed, misemployed and retrenched quantity surveyors, engineers and architects to the works ministry in protest against the frozen positions in the ministry.
The move by NASE showed that ministry’s argument that Namibia was in short of home-grown architects, quantity surveyors and engineers was baseless.
Navigating economic headwinds
To give a glimpse of Namibia’s economic struggles, youth unemployment stands at a staggering 39.2%, the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) is underfunded, job losses is the order of the day in the construction industry and the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture is struggling to keep up with the demands of free education.
Murorua said separating between “needs and wants” was key if Namibia is to recover from the current economic dilemma.
“We need to be careful as to what we spend on. We need to spend on the needs that are pressing and already existing because the situation we are in is a global one and we cannot already predict when we are going out,” he said.
He added: “We started on the wrong footing. We are producing raw materials, but we are not having plants or factories to process them and add value. Now, those value adding plants are also costing a lot of money to establish. I think it’s a very difficult position that we have put ourselves in.”
However, all hope is not lost as the “youth who are in university have to study in the fields that rely more on our own people than expatriates who are coming from outside the country”, Murorua said.
Furthermore, the UDF leadership will hold its executive meeting towards the end of the year as it prepares to have an elective congress in 2018. Murorua was quick to note that the party has been active at grassroots level in its quest to grow its membership base.
“We have been working through the branches and the chairpersons have established forums and gave them specific instructions as to how to keep the current numbers and to increase members in the various towns all over Namibia,” he said.