Windhoek — Comrade Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma, Founding President of the SWAPO Party and Father of the Namibian Nation;Comrade Hifikepunye Pohamba, Former President of the SWAPO Party and the Republic of Namibia; Comrade Nangolo Mbumba, Secretary General of the SWAPO Party; Comrade Laura Mcleod-Katjirua, Deputy Secretary General of the SWAPO Party; Members of the Politburo and Central Committee of the SWAPO Party; Comrades, Delegates to the 6th Congress; Comrades, Veterans of our Liberation Struggle; Distinguished Special Invited Delegates; Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Members of the Media; Comrades and friends;
It is an honour for me to mark the opening of this 6th Elective Congress of the SWAPO Party. We thank our Founding Father Comrade Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma, who opened the doors of this house and ushered us in, and protected us with the shields of peace and unity. We thank our Comrade Hifikepunye Pohamba, our second President for giving us stability in this house by consolidating the foundations established by Comrade Nujoma.
We thank our esteemed Veterans of the Liberation Struggle for their blood, sweat and tears. We thank those comrades and stalwarts who are not with us today, having paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives to the cause. Their blood continues to water our freedom. Let us uphold their collective values, let us emulate the selflessness of those before us and let us ensure that SWAPO always remains on the right side of history.
We must insure the legacy of our struggle
Let me welcome all of you, comrade delegates, and thank you for your commitment to our beloved Party. You have left your homes, families and livelihoods in order to dedicate these next few days to your Party, the
mighty SWAPO Party.
This is a momentous occasion. We are on the cusp of determining our destiny. The time is now for us to ensure that the legacy of our liberation struggle, the legacy of the Namibian Revolution and the legacy of the Mighty SWAPO Party shall continue.
It is no secret that we currently find ourselves in tumultuous times. The geo-political climate is in a state of flux, the global economy is at cross roads, structural inequality is manifesting itself in the most heartbreaking ways and the future is fraught with uncertainty. All these are contributing factors to the tension which has engulfed many of our liberation movements in Africa.
Some would say that these factors have created the perfect storm. A storm we have not seen since the days of the liberation struggle and which tempts us to think things have changed. Change is a constant so yes, things have changed but the SWAPO party's values remain the same. I am reminded by the words of the great leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh who once said, "Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability."
Now – more than ever – in the midst of these challenging times, the mighty SWAPO Party must show the doubters, the naysayers and the doom mongers that SWAPO REMAINS STRONG, SWAPO REMAINS UNITED and SWAPO REMAINS STABLE.
Since its inception, SWAPO has been a party forthright and honest in its aims and objectives. SWAPO is not a personality cult, it is not an exclusive club, it is not a shortcut to personal wealth or power. SWAPO is a movement of the people. It is bigger than any individual, and when the day comes that we are no longer here, SWAPO will remain standing. The exercise of internal party democracy is a strength, not a weakness and we should never allow our stable succession practices and our democratic nature to become a weakness.
We profess to stand on the strong foundations of democracy, unity, peace, stability and the rule of law. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Unity, to be real, must stand the severest strain without breaking." This is our time to prove to ourselves, our adversaries, to the region and the whole world that SWAPO Party unity will stand the severest strain without breaking.
'New Africa' - clear, fair and transparent
Since the onset of our independence, SWAPO has worked tirelessly to buttress our democracy by adopting a modern approach to Governance. Over the years, we have established robust processes, systems and institutions, which are gradually and systemically strengthened. This approach is also part and parcel of what we refer to as the 'New Africa', an Africa that is characterized by clear, fair and transparent Processes; Systems that are working and Institutions that are above reproach. These three elements, which I refer to as the 'Trinity', are essential to buttressing our democracy and effective governance.
SWAPO continues to promote effective governance and to execute its mandate on the basis of accountability, transparency, honesty and commitment. Therefore one of my personal beliefs is that Transparency plus Accountability equals to improved levels of Trust. The drive to enhance trust levels, therefore, forms the cornerstone of this Administration's implementation strategy of the SWAPO Election Manifesto.
Not only did SWAPO lay sound democratic Governance Architecture, the party also established solid macroeconomic architecture. The historical, systemic exclusion of black Namibians created the socio-economic deficits that persist against the conventional anti-poverty strategies that we have employed over the 27 years.
That is why this Administration has declared a full-scale war against poverty, inequality and corruption. We recognize that the only sustained growth will be shared growth. We need inclusive growth that will translate into the creation of decent job opportunities for our citizens. This is what Comrade Nujoma termed to be the second phase of the struggle; for Namibia's full economic emancipation.
Safeguarding our economic sovereignty has always been and remains a central tenet of SWAPO's economic policy. We were fortunate to have witnessed the devastating effects caused by Structural Adjustment Programmes in many African countries. It is for this reason that Comrades Nujoma, Pohamba and I decided that Namibia would never go to the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank for a bailout. The only way to maintain our economic sovereignty therefore, would be continuing the prudent management of our Fiscus by ensuring that every single cent of taxpayers' money is spent in an accountable and effective manner.
Even during the current economic downturn, where debt was permitted to exceed our self-imposed ceiling, Namibia's debt, as a ratio to GDP at 42 percent remains lower than the SADC benchmark of 60 percent. In addition to this, the Namibian economy continues to be vibrant with economic growth projected to pick up in line with the global economic recovery. Our external position at 5 month of import coverage is strong; price pressure are well contained; there is ample liquidity and subscriptions to Government bonds have been well received, showing that Namibia remains credit worthy.
Committed to inclusive, pro-poor and pro-growth approach
Going forward, we will ensure the economy is managed in a responsible manner, by remaining far from IMF bailouts and ensuring the limited resources we have at our disposal, are spent in an inclusive, pro-poor and pro-growth manner.
SWAPO subscribes to the ideology of social justice, equity and solidarity. One key belief is that development must be people centered. Development that does not impact the lives of the Namibian people in a transformational manner, is meaningless.
When considering the initial adverse conditions and deep social disparities Namibia inherited at Independence, significant progress has been made to date. To be clear, we are not pleased when one Namibian lives in poverty. We are not pleased when one mother dies during the birth process. We are not pleased when one child dies due to malnutrition and we are certainly not pleased when one child is not in school.
Government has therefore taken the following measures to ensure the status quo improves. At Independence, the poverty rate was 70 percent and in some regions as high as 90 percent. This means that 7 out of every 10 Namibians, out of a population of 1.5 million at the time, were considered to be poor. This figure has since declined from 70 percent in 1993 to 18 percent in 2016. The region with the highest poverty rate, Ohangwena has declined from 90 percent to 30 percent during the same period. What this means is that hundreds of thousands of Namibians have been lifted out of poverty.
Considering the case of social safety nets. At Independence the predominant social safety net was the Old Age Social Grant. The benefit of this safety net was heavily biased towards whites, both in terms of coverage and amount. Almost all white Namibians, who qualified were covered and received higher monthly payouts, while only a limited number of black Namibians received the Old Age Social Grant, at a fraction of the value granted to white Namibians.
Since independence, poverty rate down from 70 % to 18%
We took the drastic decision to equalize these Old Age Social Grants for all senior citizens, irrespective of race and to focus on expanding coverage. To date, the coverage of this important social safety net stands above 90 percent and with a little more effort, we will soon attain 100 percent coverage. Moreover, we took another drastic decision over the last two fiscal years to increase the value; having doubled from N$600 per month to N$1,200 per month. This grant is truly transformational in nature, as it not only benefits the elderly but helps to arrest childhood poverty and provides the rural communities, especially, with microeconomic stimulus.
There are several other social grants, over and above the Old Age Social Grant, such as those advanced to veterans of the liberation struggle, foster care grant and grant to orphans and vulnerable children and the school feeding programme. In total 16 percent of the Namibian population directly or indirectly benefit from these grants and for this current year (2017/18) N$6.8 billion or 10 percent of the total budget has been devoted to social grants. This demonstrates the commitment of the SWAPO Government to fulfill the needs of the underprivileged and vulnerable members of our society, towards the total upliftment of all Namibians.
Considering hunger poverty. It was estimated that in 2016, 4.9 percent of the population was living in hunger poverty, in other words, did not have enough food to eat on a daily basis. The hunger in urban and peri-urban areas triggered the idea of food banks, which was incorporated into the Harambee Prosperity Plan. In June 2016, the first food bank was opened in Katutura and by the end of Year One of HPP implementation, close to 100 thousand Namibians had become beneficiaries of the much-needed food on a monthly basis.
We believe that this action alone will make a dent in the percentage of people living in urban hunger poverty. However, we have acknowledged on numerous occasions that the food bank in itself is not the panacea to eradicating hunger poverty and is a small part of a multi-faceted approach to arrest hunger poverty. The food-bank is specifically targeting for peri-urban environments and different strategies are envisaged for rural areas. All these strategies are in documents which are readily available and which we encourage our members to familiarize themselves with.
The other dimensions of poverty that we are addressing are housing and sanitation, access to quality education, access to quality health care, improved physical infrastructure, including rural areas and job creation. These interventions were derived after extensive community consultation.
As alluded to before, almost a quarter of the total budget annually is allocated towards education. In relative terms this is among the highest in the world and second to none in Sub-Saharan Africa. We can see the results.
Enrollment rates have significantly increased since independence. Access to education has dramatically improved since independence. No child who wants to be at school will be turned away and we are doing everything in our power to increase enrolment and reduce dropout rates. Now that the goals for education access and gender equity have been achieved, our focus is on quality and the promotion of vocational education as outlined in the HPP.
Results in the First Year of HPP implementation are encouraging. Where the target was to enroll 18,000 learners into TVET, a total of 25,000 were actually enrolled. This indicates that young people are embracing vocational education and view it to be a viable education stream.
Quality education and expansion of the productive structure of the economy will be key. Training and development for our young people to become employable will continue. At the same time the productive structure of the economy must expand to be able to accommodate young people after graduation. Failure to reduce unemployment would further complicate our peace and stability.
Over the period of six decades, SWAPO has succeeded to create and entrench a legacy of Peace, Stability and Prosperity. We are now full swing into the second phase of the struggle, to achieve full economic emancipation for all Namibians.
Changing with the times, while retaining core values.
The world as we knew it has changed. It is therefore pertinent that SWAPO adapts to deal with the contemporary challenges, in order to remain at the forefront of fighting for social justice. There are those who claim that SWAPO has changed and it is no longer the party they used to know. For those I have the following to say: SWAPO has not changed. The World has changed and in order not to be left behind, we have to change with the times, while retaining our core values.
SWAPO remains true to the pursuit of its fundamental ideals for social justice and liberty, in all its forms. SWAPO is here to stay and it is here to stay, for a very long time. Our youth are important torchbearers in this journey as they better understand the technological and social changes that our society is faced with and we must listen to them. We must listen to the workers, we must listen to women. We must listen to each other and after dialogue, we must act. That is our commitment. To listen, engage and to act.
Today, SWAPO and Namibia are faced with different challenges and different adversaries from the ones we faced during the days of the liberation struggle. These "modern day" challenges include poverty, corruption, unemployment and high income and wealth disparities. Therefore, under SWAPO, we will remain steadfast to overcome these challenges as a united and collective front.
Let us adhere to our SWAPO rules and principles during these elections. Let us play the ball and not the player. Furthermore, in the spirit of SWAPO Party unity, once the contest is over and the winners have been announced, let us all rally behind the victors, because it is not personalities that matter, it is principles that matter.
We say that between SWAPO and other political parties, there may be "war" during an elective process. However, within SWAPO there must be competition; healthy competition, that will result in a stronger more resilient SWAPO. As we prepare to commence this landmark 6th SWAPO Party Elective Congress, a Congress that will shape the destiny of SWAPO and Namibia, I ask that we ponder the words of Commandante Fidel Castro who said, "None of us has any personal interest above the interests of the country. Our country is more important than our careers."
Let us bury our personal interest and hold aloft the interests of SWAPO. Let us not pursue the growth of our careers but pursue the growth of Namibia.
Let us hold hands and move on towards a prosperous future for our beloved, mighty SWAPO Party and Namibia, our motherland.
Long live the SWAPO Party, SWAPO, United! SWAPO, Victorious! NOW, Hard Work! I thank you.