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Whither to indigenisation in Namibia

2018-11-16  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Whither to indigenisation in Namibia
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“The economic order of Namibia shall be based on the principles of a mixed economy with the objective of securing economic growth, prosperity and a life of human dignity for all Namibians,” reads article 98 of the Namibian Constitution on the Principles of Economic Order.

Namibia turned this year 28 years old. Given the adverse economic outlook that the country has been weathering, not only this year, but for some years now, there can be little expectation for a positive economic growth to eventually ensure prosperity, and the consequent life of human dignity, as per the said article. Pointers to the harsh economic conditions that the country have been experiencing are there for all to see but often being overlooked or conveniently dismissed by especially policy makers and politicians alike, as only flippant social ills and economically rooted. Needless to mention the fact that the social, cultural and religious, more often than not are influenced and result from adverse economic conditions. 

Amidst such reality, what one has been observing is the stagnation if not reversal of indigenisation, reversal for a lack of a better term because it is debatable if in Namibia there has been any indigenisation since independence. It is instructive at this juncture to elaborate what is and may be meant here with indigenisation. “Indigenisation is the act of making something more native; transformation of some service, idea, etc. to suit a local culture, especially through the use of more indigenous people in administration, employment, etc,” Wikipedia defines. 

In what would have been consonant with indigenisation, if Namibian had expressive indigenization frameworks and instruments, the Namibian Constitution provides under Article 23, Subsection 2, that “Nothing contained in Article 10 here of shall prevent Parliament from enacting legislation providing directly or indirectly for the advancement of persons within Namibia who have been socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged by past discriminatory laws or practices, or for the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic and educational imbalances in the Namibian society arising out of discriminatory laws or practices , or for achieving a balanced structuring (properly restructuring one must add) of public service, the defence force, the police force, and the correctional service.” 

Interestingly reference is hereby just to the public service proper and the armed forces, with no reference to perhaps one of the most important sector, if not the edifice of the Namibian fabric, which is the economy. There’s no denial that the economic sector or the Namibian economy has since German colonialism, Apartheid occupation, and even in today remains the most skewed and imbalanced sector, and as a corollary the Namibian society is a highly skewed and thus economical and socially unequal, unjust and imbalanced society.  Thus the obvious and automatic target for restructuring. Looking at neighbouring South Africa, and even Zimbabwe, the latest ideology in this regard has been Radical Economic Transformation and Indigenisation respectively. While in Namibia the dominant ideology has been Second Phase of Economic Struggle, and/or “growth” or “growing the national cake” whatever this means. Resultantly, because of lack of a clear economic ideology to transfer the ownership of wealth to the indigenes and restructure the economy in this regard, has been few, if any notable instruments and/or policy frameworks directly speaking to indigenization or a radical economic transfromation. Yes there has been much ado about nothing with concepts such as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), and others that seem to have evaporated in thin air since, and without any trace. 

Lately Namibia has been toying with the   New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) to advance and instrumentalise indigenisation by allowing for a 25 percent equity for the previously disadvantaged Namibians in business entities. But due to pressure from the business sector, the 25 percent clause had to be scrapped, leading to assertions of the emasculation of NEEEF but which the government has been denying. Also the Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo, has lately announced doing away with the policy giving preferential consideration to companies owned by Namibians in the allocation of exploration and mining licenses.  With reference to land matters, certainly the leasing of four Namibian farms to Russian billionaire for 99 years, cannot auger well for Namibian indigenisation, if ever there and has been such a push. Yes, for years now, a section of the previously economically exploited and marginalised have gained limited access to fishing rights but whether such a process has led to the indigenisation of the fishing sector, is a million dollar question. Not to mention the fact those granted such rights seem to have become an elite of its own kind, meaning such rights cannot be said to have been broad based, until this year when there has been a pretense of opening up the industry to more rights holders other than the usual members of the fishing rights elite.

But can there and should there really be any expectation for Namibia to be pushing towards indigenisation given few of altogether no constitutional provisions, and other legal instruments and frameworks in this regard? Given the entrenchment of property rights by the Constitution without first levelling the playing fields in the property market. Very few of the previously exploited and marginalised have any property so protected or to be protected. Thus such a protection is meaningless to them until they are propertied. But with their access to property and wealth now at the mercy of the propertied classes, predominantly whites, and white foreigners, as seem the reality and trend in Namibia today, indigenization surely shall remain only a pipe dream with the propertied class adamant to protect its privilege by any means necessary, even running to Big Brothers of this world like the USA and/or UNITED Kingdom as ala the South African Afri forum style.  Not in the absence nationalisation, a term that has almost been non-existent in the Namibian economic trajectories. Let alone the ownership of the means of production, in other words socialism, a word that in Namibia has long been relegated to the dustbin of political history.  

2018-11-16  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

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