21 February 2013

Namibia: Opposition Unimpressed By State of the Nation Address

Rundu — Opposition parties were not impressed with President Hifikepunye Pohamba's message during the opening of the Seventh Session of the Fifth Parliament in the National Assembly last week.

Pohamba pointed out, among others, that the magnitude of poverty and unemployment, low living standards and the lack of access to food, housing, potable water and quality education are daily reminders to "us all of an unfinished agenda in achieving economic and social justice for all our people".

With half the population living below the poverty line and more than half of it unemployed, the opposition expected Pohamba to make meaningful and practical proposals to deal with the challenges he outlined.

"Our government is faced with many challenges which we are working hard to overcome. We are determined to ensure that we continue to uplift the socio-economic conditions of our people, especially those who live in rural areas and informal settlements," the president had told lawmakers during the opening, which attracted very little interest from the general public.

"It is against this background that we have taken deliberate steps to address the needs of our people and to empower communities through the delivery of public services and expansion of social amenities such as housing, potable water, electricity, health care and education," Pohamba further told the Fifth Parliament.

Members of the opposition parties had mixed feelings about the presidential address. National Unity Democratic Organization of Namibia (Nudo) MP Arnold Tjihuiko expressed cautious support for some of the issues the president touched on, but was not wholly satisfied.

"The President is clearly concerned about the lack of reaction from implementers when it comes to delivering service to the people. As the head of state, he called on everybody, including the opposition, to do their part to support government programmes for the benefit of the people," said Tjihuiko.

In his view the president was not specific enough on some burning issues, especially in respect of job creation and the struggle kids. "I wanted him to place emphasis on economic growth and job creation, because one can only create jobs if you grow the country's economy. There was also no mention of the struggle kids. There is a need for us to find a holistic approach to once and for all end the issue of the struggle kids," he said.

Tjihuiko said Pohamba should summon the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Jerry Ekandjo, to get him to devise strategies to deal with the children of the liberation struggle. "The statement was very general because there was also no mention of corruption, which has been increasing at an alarming rate of late," said Tjihuiko.

Always the same message

All People's Party (APP) president, Ignatius Shixwameni, is of the opinion that although the issues raised by the president were relevant, he had nothing new to offer. "No one takes him seriously anymore, because he keeps on repeating the same things. We need someone who can whip the MP's who fail to deliver," said Shixwameni.

"If we are serious that we want things to work in this country, then our president ought to be stricter in this regard to ensure that government programmes are implemented," said Shixwameni. "Ministers and permanent secretaries should be employed on performance contracts to ensure that they carry out their duties. If someone does not perform they must be fired immediately. Government must have people who are action-oriented at all times," he said.

"The issue of land was also not touched on, I do not know whether it is falling off the president's radar - even corruption, which has become the hallmark of his tenure, was not dealt with during his address," he said.

"So far no one within the top echelons of government has been prosecuted, therefore these people can just eat state money, because no one will hold them accountable. I feel he left out burning issues, because top politicians and their close associates are squandering resources that can be used to uplift the nation," said the APP opposition leader.

"Things like green schemes are given to whites who used to benefit from the former colonial regime, while our own people are starving. When are we going to empower our own people?" he asked. "Government does not need to be reminded that the N$550 monthly pension is not enough, given the cost of living," said DTA president Katuutire Kaura.

"I am really concerned with the little pension the old people receive, because it is simply not enough."

With land having been on government's agenda for a while now, Kaura said the country needs to revisit some of the resolutions of the land conference to deal with the continuing land crisis.

"People register land as close corporations and sell it as they please as shares. Therefore, you see that even Eskimos in Alaska can come and buy land in Namibia. Foreigners should only be entitled to receive a certain portion of land for a renewable lease period of 25 years," he said.

More resources for standing committees

SWANU President Usutuaije Maamberua singled out the president's mention and obvious interest in the work of the parliamentary standing committees, but feels these committees should receive more resources to perform effectively.

"He probably fell short of saying that government will provide more resources to the committees in terms of skills and facilities. At the moment the committees are somewhat effective, but they can do much more with increased resources," said Maamberua. "He was correct to say that we must improve on service delivery, because there is no value for money at the moment," Maamberua said.

"If you look at how much government invests in education and compare it to the results, you will conclude that money is not the factor that accounts for the low pass rate, perhaps there are other factors only known to education experts. The pass rate simply does not match the financial input of government," he said. "Therefore, it is not a question of money, but more about management."

"Government continues to tell us things we already know, we want to hear about the solutions," said outspoken Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) secretary general, Jesaya Nyamu. "I am sorry to say this, but government has dismally failed to implement its own policies. Some of the policies are not bad, I can even support them, but with the current Swapo leadership they will not be able to implement their policies," said Nyamu.

"A lot of resources are budgeted for projects and government programmes, but they do not reach their destination," said a concerned Nyamu. "If we do not stop corruption we will be in trouble, because the clock is ticking. Once it becomes prevalent, it will reach all the sectors and only the fittest will survive," Nyamu warned. "We have the resources, the problem is the way we manage them."

"Government should have people who understand modern times, until such a change comes I am convinced that Namibia is in need of a political revolution," stressed Nyamu.

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