German ambassador scoffs at NEEEF

By Kelvin Chiringa
December 2016 & January 2017
Prime Business

German Ambassador to Namibia, Christian Matthias Schlaga, has made a bold statement at the recently held high profile Sector Strategy Growth event that scoffed at government’s continued efforts to ensure the implementation of the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework which has been regarded by many white business owners as a threat to economic stability.

Addressing delegates at the closure of the launch of Growth Strategies and the National Policy on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Schlaga has suggested that government had to put a stop to forcing people to share their wealth and instead create new avenues of wealth to empower the majority of Namibians bogged in extreme poverty.

“Every country should create new wealth than force others to share their wealth,” Schlaga said in the closure of his speech in which he pledged Germany’s continued support for the execution of the growth strategy in ten industries.

When contacted to elaborate on his bold utterings by Prime Focus, the ambassador distanced himself from this publication saying that he would not speak publicly about the matter although he stuck to his word which suggested that the predominantly priviledged white minority including Namibia’s nouveau riche had no duty to share the wealth, most of which was amassed over centuries of exploitation.

“I will not speak publicly,” he said, before opening up,” I think the sentence I just said is the key sentence. Create new wealth instead of introducing policies which force people to share already existing wealth.”

The ambassador insists that Namibia is faced with the challenge of creating a broader wealth base while the concept of sharing does not make sense noting that it would be detrimental to the economy.

Responding to these utterances, Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, Immanuel Ngatjizeko, says that although the ambassador’s statements are not clear, government is currently hell bent on remedying the growing disparity between the privileged and the impoverished.

“I do not know what he is referring to, he just mentioned those [words] but he didn’t mention them clearly. In terms of what we do, we should not leave some of the people behind. We have a much skewed distribution of wealth in our country and those are the issues we need to address. If we do not address that, we will leave some people behind and the consequences would be instability in the near future,” he counters.

Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (NCCI) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tarah Shaanika vehemently denounces Schlaga as going beyond his diplomatic mandate and poking his nose into the affairs of a sovereign state’s domestic policy.

“I feel that the ambassador is unfairly interfering in the internal affairs of Namibia. I do not think it is in his place to tell Namibians how to manage their resources. We welcome constructive advice that we get from friends but if the ambassador is saying that nobody should be forced to share the wealth, he is misunderstanding the point,” he submits.

Shaanika further delivers that Schlaga is offside in failing to understand the core demands of NEEEF, which is to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, a gap that was intentionally created by pro-Apartheid policies.
“Maybe the ambassador is not informed about the inequality we have in Namibia. There is not going to be forced wealth sharing. The challenge that we have in Namibia is that the racial economic inequality was created by government policies of yesterday and because of the policies, including legislations that were pursued by the colonial administration in Namibia for many decades, it created unequal access to resources and national income,” he adds.

He says that the endeavor of government is to redistribute wealth so that every Namibian can be a direct beneficiary to national resources, while the process will not be coercive, as suggested by the German emissary.

“The intention of empowerment in Namibia is not to simply take from some people and give to other people. It is really to ensure that opportunities are created where those who do not have are able to have access to resources and therefore end up having them, and those who have them out of the privileges they had due to previous policies are now assisting those who were disadvantaged by the (same) policies to also catch up with them. It is not the first time this is happening in the world,” says Shaanika.

Meanwhile, NEEEF has been widely debated in the corridors of politics and economics with speculation being rife that it would not achieve its intended purpose. The entire debate however culminated into a negative Fitch rating which also poured water on the implementation of the empowerment policy.