As the ruling party opens a new page to draft another electioneering manifesto for the election year, The Patriot digs into the party’s last promises that earned it a landslide win at the polls while looking at what the voter may consider looking for this election year.
Land expropriation and elections are the wild cards in scenario planning.
If volatility is your thing, 2019 could be a great year. All the elements for a roller coaster ride are in place: an election in November, but much of a repetition of promises will come to play once more.
The country has so much to narrate from the past five years. Starting from downgrades, increased unemployment rates, inequality and the life in the informal settlements which President Hage Geingob now wants to fix in the election year. It’s going to be bumpy.
Land will also be a hot-button issue and SWAPO seek re-election with a failed land reform process.
Important to mention on land is that this issue has become a symbol of the slow rate of economic transformation where white Namibians, who make up less than 10% of the population and own 70% of commercial farmland.
Still, Namibia’s weaker-than-expected economic growth is unlikely to unseat SWAPO.
Before more promises are put to the Namibian electorate, The Patriot looks at what the party promised in 2014 and evaluate what more promises the party will bring to the table.
Economic Growth and Job Creation
The PROMISE: ‘The party promised to grow the economy, and create wealth and job opportunities for all Namibians.
It also promised to pursue policies and strategies to safeguard macroeconomic stability, promote economic diversification and transformation of the Namibian economy to be more inclusive and resilient to internal and external shocks.’ Continued advancement of agriculture development through the provision of support services to commercial and subsistent farmers to increase both crop and livestock production.’
Infrastructure Development Housing and Sanitation
The PROMISE: ‘To ensure that Namibia remains competitive, the SWAPO Party will continue to invest aggressively in all four modes of transport, energy provision, water infrastructure, housing and sanitation and information communication technology over the next five years.’
Quality Healthcare Delivery
The PROMISE: Upgrading the existing infrastructure and developing new health facilities to cater for the fast increasing population.
Human capital development and deployment
The PROMISE: Modernisation of physical capacity, equipment and technology of existing schools, vocational and skills development centers, as well as education and training institutions.
Environmental Management and Sustainable Utilisation of Natural Resources
The PROMISE: ‘The SWAPO Party Government will continue to devise measures to ensure the protection, conservation and respect of our environment and sustainable utilisation of non-renewable resources for the benefit of current and future generations.’
‘In addition, the SWAPO Party Government will continue to implement laws and policies to ensure sustainable exploration and utilisation of our natural resources to achieve national developmental objectives.’
The PROMISE: The SWAPO Party Government will continue to review and consolidate the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act, Act 6 of 1995 and the Communal Land Reform Act, Act 5 of 2002 into one land legislation that will cover both our communal and commercial land tenure systems.
‘The SWAPO Party Government will acquire 417 000 hectares of land each year for the next six years until 2020 for it to reach the 2.5 million hectares of land under the National Resettlement Program.’
‘We will continue to encourage the willing buyer, willing seller principle while at the same time continuously reviewing the same.’
‘We will develop integrated land use plans where the resources, infrastructure and possibilities are established and captured. The Integrated regional land use plans allow the regions to map, and determine the use of the natural resource and investment prospects’
‘Expect more promises this year’- experts
Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah says it is an ongoing trend that political parties deliver less than what they promised the electorate, particularly Swapo since independence.
“Swapo has been presenting vibrant manifestos to address the issues that are affecting Namibians but we could see that the trend of not been delivering has come a long way. The same will happen this year,” he said.
The early months of the year has seen the party and country President pronouncing himself on issues such as informal settlements and announcing a commission to look into ancestral land and land rights, although Hage Geingob has shot down critics that his actions are an election ploy, the political analyst believes these are issues deliberately done to score votes in the long run.
“There is a lot of anger rooted in ethnicity, tribalism and inequality. The President has noticed this anger and that is why he has started to dialogue on these matters. He will focus on the issues that are causing division more this year.
The veteran political scholar advises to closely watch Geingob this year, saying there is somewhat of a fear that things might not turn out the way he expects to.
“Not that Swapo will lose but we are facing a scenario where the vote for Swapo will drop.”
One reason is that the young people might not turn out for the elections. Many of them are losing hope and despise the fact that it is only old people in leadership. The dynamics of the results will impact Swapo. In some instance in the past they voted with their parents and that is not happening this year if they go out and vote,” he said.
He advised the youth not to stay away from elections saying it is to their disadvantage even when they have lost hope. “The same party they don’t want to stay in power will stay in power.
It is an open secret that the party will pull financial strings to fund and make the year look as if everything is normal, but the consequences will kick in next year.” Labour expert Herbert Jauch shares the same sentiment saying government’s dire financial constraint will come to play. While the situation might be smeared with rhetoric, the repercussions will hit the country next year eventually.
“Things will look fine this year because it’s election year but it will be bad the following year,” said Jauch making reference to euro bond payments that Namibia has to start paying back next year. “Loans taken in Euros need to be paid back and given the current status, Namibia will not be able to pay back, which means they might have to go for an IMF loan and that comes at a great cost. We might start to see retrenchments in the public sector because of this situation,” he added.
He is of the view that government has committed funds to projects that were not supposed to be priority, making reference to the ongoing Windhoek – Hosea Kutako International Airport freeway.
“Our finance situation is getting so dire and there seems to be no coherent solution to change this. So this year we will see a ticking over and it will get worse next year.”
Jauch also swiped on the current depressing employment statistics to the Namibian Employment Policy of 2013 and promises from the Swapo Manifesto of 2014, saying the situation which the party promised to improve has become worse. The Namibian Employment Policy of 2013 that was launched by President Pohamba committed itself to a target of an additional 90 000 jobs in those five years
“Their own set targets were not met and it is extremely worrying because you are basically putting a whole generation of young people at risk. Unlike in the past when a university degree almost guaranteed you some sort of employment, now unemployment is cutting across and it is no more just for people without a formal education.”
He adds “we have completely failed to transform the economic structure of the country. We have been talking since Independence about manufacturing and adding value to mineral resources and we have not done that to date. Our implementation is so week that all the proposals and promises made showed no results and that poses a bigger question whether there exist political will to address this issues heads on or are we just happy to continue to live with the issues.”
Unemployment Rate in Namibia increased to 34 percent in 2016 from 28.10 percent in 2014.
According to Jauch, unemployment will be normalised and the leadership will be calling for more foreign direct investment.
“When you fail your own targets and you don’t have a rethink of what to do differently. Our Politicians are not serious and have no idea what to do. But we should expect a lot more promises of things to change in the future. I cannot see anything concrete happening. Four years ago when the war on poverty was declared, everyone was certain that by now we would have a basic income grant. But nothing has happened.”
He advised the electorate to approach the elections with critical thinking devoid of good speeches but actions and tangible systems that can be monitored.
“No more window dressing and speeches, we want to see action. There is a general frustration in the country on their promises. We want to see the year of reckoning and delivery. The electorate should demand action and not speeches and self-congratulatory remarks. The time for lofty speeches is over.”
‘We are proud of the progresses – SWAPO’
The Party’s Executive Director Austin Samupwa said Swapo was happy with the progress from the 2014 Manifesto so far but could not share much saying the party is busy with the analysis. “All I can say is that the party is happy with the progress and I will engage you at a later stage when we are done doing the analysis. We are also busy with the 2019 manifesto so I cannot comment on that,” he said. The party is said to have requested information on projects carried out by various ministries. It intends to use such information as part of the party’s successes and be part of the 2019 manifesto.