• September 25th, 2020

The Neglect of Real Empowerment


The emotive issue of Affirmative Action has once again been thrown into the spotlight with revelations that the scheme under the auspices of AgriBank does not adequately meet its broader goals of empowering previously disadvantaged Namibians. What is happening with the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme of AgriBank in certain instances is almost similar to botched deals where individuals borrowed money from the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) for setting up businesses only to drop them after making a quick buck. Our lead story in today's edition is a damning verdict of things gone wrong and continuing to go wrong. True, there is numerical evidence of more people being 'empowered' through land ownership compared to the past. More and more blacks have been resettled on government farms or have acquired commercial farms through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme since independence. And that is good news. But empowerment is more than just numbers of farms allocated to previously disadvantaged blacks. It is about substantive and meaningful wealth creation and distribution. Empowerment is about imparting enabling knowledge and skills to the previously disadvantaged and thus unlocking their potential. Numbers alone are not the answer because, in the end, they do not make much difference. There has to be meaningful change in the lives of those being empowered. By way of example, distributing condoms alone would not end the scourge of HIV Aids, neither is it a sign of successfully tackling the dreaded diseases and other maladies like teenage pregnancies. In the same way, empowerment cannot be measured in terms of the number of blacks who have acquired land. Rather, it is the productivity thereof that matters the most. It now turns out that the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme of AgriBank that is supposed to empower blacks is in fact disempowering them. The scheme, it transpires, is riddled with cheating and underhand dealings where white commercial farmers sell land and then retain it perpetually for use. Instead of affirming new black entrants into the commercial farming sector, the contrary is sometimes true - white commercial farmers continue to entrench themselves while a token handful of blacks sit on the periphery as farm owners whereas, in fact, the people farming on these properties are the former owners. We are busy creating a layer of heavily indebted so-called black farm owners who do not add much value to the agricultural sector. AgriBank, it would seem, is caught up in this zero sum game and is unable to disentangle itself from the mess. It is either unwilling to tackle this untenable situation head-on or simply does not have the courage. Firstly, AgriBank, we are told by informants, does not have a way of accurately checking whether those qualifying for loans do in fact possess the required 150 cattle in the case of those who venture into animal production. Nor does it seem to know - or even care to know - who is the "beneficial" occupant of the farm. To ensure that it recovers its money, AgriBank has now dropped all pretence and in most cases arranges for white farmers leasing Affirmative Action farms from black owners to pay instalments directly to the bank. The intentions behind the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme were well meant, but the entire design and implementation of the scheme was half-baked, resulting in an ineffectual half-measure that will never achieve its original objective. To make the scheme even superficially workable for emerging farmers, AgriBank and the government have engaged in a mutually reinforcing vicious circle of self-deceit and denial. AgriBank in particular fudged its own rules regarding the number of livestock required to qualify for a loan, thereby ensuring from the outset that most emerging farmers would fail. The bank further violated its own strict rules against hiring out grazing to third parties. Only part-time farmers, largely from two-income families where both husband and wife are on high salaries, have succeeded in farming as the beneficial occupants of a farm. The failure of the scheme can be attributed to a culture, which places more emphasis on appearance rather than substance. To everyone involved it was more important, and politically more expedient, to create a fa??????'??
New Era Reporter
2007-06-01 00:00:00 | 13 years ago

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