Growing up in a political family, Aletha Frederick (AF) has come of age after years of youth activism to now lead the great//Kharas region. New Era journalist Steven Klukowski (SK) sat down with Frederick on her new journey.
SK: Since being appointed as the highest-ranking representative of government in the //Kharas region, how well did you fit in your new role?
AF: Being a local authority councillor in Bethanie for two terms, I established myself very well with regional and local governance structures. Political wise, I am confident I have reached maturity, as I grew up within the Swapo Party structures and ideologies. In addition, the terms and reference attached to my new role as political head of the region are very clear to me. As the eyes and ears of President Hage Geingob in the //Kharas region, I am very well prepared for the task lying ahead, understanding that I have to oversee the implementation of projects and also ensure prudent use of scarce resources to benefit all residents. In the end, I am confident to achieve it. Based on my open-door policy and reliance of stakeholders I believe I can fit perfectly in my assigned portfolio.
SK: One of the biggest challenges in the region is unemployment and poverty; how well can your office address this?
AF: As mentioned in my recent state of the nation address (SORA), it is my main objective to bring about an inclusive, innovative green economy specifically addressing sustainable food security, as I believe this will be the basis of tackling the challenge of unemployment and poverty. My office will also supplement agrarian programmes already initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform through the newly established agriculture steering committee to improve the livelihood of our citizens in terms of income generation and self-sustainability programmes. The biggest challenge is, however, the fact that my office does not have a budget for these purposes and are more relying on //Kharas regional council funding who are running food/cash for work programmes to partly address these challenges. I will, in addition, vigorously be engaged the business sector and investors to come on board so that we can take hands to create more employment opportunities for the region’s residents to uplift them from poverty. The economic growth potential of //Kharas is furthermore considerably high but needs an intensive general development policy. My office also wants to ensure residents reap more benefits from the wealth of minerals the region is blessed with through continuous consultation and political engagement. Although the trademark economic sectors of mining and fishing remain the backbone of the region’s fiscal potential, I strongly believe the agriculture and tourism sectors have the needed growth potential that can further stimulate the economy in //Kharas and answer to residents’ needs.
SK: Being an active youth member in your time before it became clear from interactions that the youth agenda is close to your heart, what programmes are in place in the region in terms of capacitating this group of the population to become self-sustainable and be emancipated economically?
AF: It is indeed true that I was actively involved in youth development before being appointed as regional governor. My office has identified one member from our youth in all seven constituencies to serve on a youth task force. It’s objective is to look into the progress of current youth development programmes in place to establish how well it benefitted this portion of the region’s population. We also want to establish how available resources can capacitate our leaders of tomorrow in terms of empowering them with entrepreneurial skills, vocational-and-tertiary training and assertiveness skills. Through this and the necessary financial assistance, they (youth) can create more employment opportunities and become self-sustainable. This taskforce should, therefore, come up with comprehensive, sustainable project proposals whereby my office can then find ways to secure funding to realise it. Another aspect of needing urgent attention is substance abuse amongst our youth. Many times, it resulted from unemployment and boredom; hence, we must look into social behavioural reform programmes through counselling and awareness.
SK: Many a time residents complain about corruption, nepotism and tribalism in government and other state-owned institutions. How well is your office addressing these issues?
AF: I strongly advocate that leaders present themselves at all times with strong values such as integrity, fairness and transparency to set the example in our fight against corruption, nepotism and tribalism. If they, pulling the wagon, do things right, I believe the “horses” will follow suit. In a free and democratic Namibia, evils such as these should not be tolerated, as our President always quests for inclusivity irrespective of race, colour, tribe or political affiliation. It is, however, sad to see that corruption has caused many undesirable socio-economic outcomes in many sectors of our country, which could have benefited a lot of people. Be, however, rest assured that //Kharas region has a zero-tolerance for corruption and my office shall, thus, not hesitate to employ the law, as it applies to any individual, regardless of status or financial well-being involved in corrupt practices. A person’s position or status should not exonerate him/her to part take in corrupt practices. If one makes themselves guilty of it, they are sabotaging your country financially.
SK: With so many retrenchments in all sectors, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, in what way can these people be assisted by government in the //Kharas region?
AF: It is unfortunate that most of these retrenchments were a result of external factors beyond our control. The devastating and prevailing Covid-19 pandemic has hit the economic sector severely, leaving employers at times with no other choice than decreasing their workforce. In the //Kharas region, it is quite saddening that the fishing and mining companies have retrenched employees, placing more burden on the shoulders of government. When projects like the Neckartal Dam become operational, I believe government can absorb some of these retrenched workers. My office envisages during my upcoming regional visits engage all stakeholders like mines and fishing companies on how well we can jointly pave the way forward in terms of the future for these people now left on the streets. As a region, we should, however, aggressively canvas to attract more potential financial investors to create more employment at the end.
SK: Anything else you want to mention in addition?
AF: In light of the worsening Covid-19 pandemic, whereby //Kharas region is now recording the third-highest daily active coronavirus cases, I hereby call on all residents to take personal responsibility and adhere to all mandatory and statutory health protocols in place. The fight against this unforeseen enemy is not only a fight for government; it’s a fight for all. Let us apply the ‘SMS’ measure, namely: sanitising, wearing masks and maintaining social distance. As a region, let us furthermore all become more agile in the implementation of projects, take full advantage of economic opportunities and rise above the challenges we are facing. In conclusion, I am looking forward that we, as residents of //Kharas region, will work closely together for the betterment of all.