20 March 2017

Namibia: Old ID Card Phase-Out Threatens Pensions

POVERTY eradication minister Zephania Kameeta warned on Saturday that thousands of pensioners and people living with disabilities may not be able to access their monthly pensions if home affairs phases out the South West African (SWA) identity cards next week.

Home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana announced in March 2016 that the old IDs would be phased out at end of this month and called on the holders of such documents to apply for the Namibian ID cards.

During a public lecture at the Swapo Party School, in Windhoek on Saturday, Kameeta said he was informed of the issue by directorate of social welfare officials.

Kameeta said there were more than 5 000 people in the Omusati region who did not have the new ID cards.

"There are 4 645 senior citizens and 396 people with disabilities," Kameeta said, adding that most of the affected people were born as far back as 1918 or 1920.

"We will not be able, if this happens, to pay out the social grants. Especially the new social grants for the new financial year," Kameeta said.

Kameeta made the remarks when given the floor to talk to former President Hifikepunye Pohamba after the former President's address.

"I was planning to take it up with the home affairs minister, but she was not in the country. I wanted to alert all of us to take this issue seriously," Kameeta said.

The minister's comments exposed a lack of coordination between Cabinet portfolios. Iivula-Ithana told The Namibian on Saturday that there was no need to panic.

"We have already taken steps in that regard. It is just time before we make an announcement," she said.

The minister did not explain further, but sources said home affairs was unhappy that the poverty minister went public without consulting them first.

Home affairs sources claimed that the issuing of new identity cards was affected by the budget cuts implemented in 2016.

Home affairs' budget was cut by N$27 million at the end of last year, from N$497 million. "Due to that, we could not complete the registration process. Why should the poverty ministry take the issue wherever without consulting the relevant ministry?" A source asked.

Iivula-Ithana informed the National Assembly last year that government was phasing out the SWA documents to adapt to international best practices of using only one legal identity card in the country.

She said many SWA identity documents contained wrong personal particulars, and that the exercise would provide an opportunity for affected people to correct their details.

New Era reported last year that around 70 000 Namibians still used SWA identity cards. Former President Pohamba said he was concerned about the consequences of the phase-out.

"Now this is very serious. The government ought to have gone to the people first and issued new Namibian identity cards before they phase it (SWA ID) out. Those old people will suffer because they will not be allowed to receive the grants that the government gives out," he said, and suggested that the phase-out period be extended until new identity cards had been issued.

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