GETTING NAMIBIA TO ACT ITS AGE ...21 years requires no adult supervision
► I don’t harbor 2014 Presidential ambitions.
► BEE vs. TESEF: Empowerment rethinking strategies.
► Apartheid still haunts us.
► Has the OPM become too bureaucratic and powerless?
► Why unemployment is at its highest in 21 years.
THE Prime Minister is the leader of the administration’s business in the Parliament, coordinator of the Cabinet and advisor and assistor of the President in the execution of the functions of the administration (Article 36 of Constitution).
Nahas Angula (NA) has been in that capacity since 2005. He is Namibia’s first Education Minister and as such, is in an envious position to authoritatively and hopefully and sincerely evaluate what the administration has achieved during the last 21 years and how the future is being presented by Government.
Prime Focus (PF) interviewed the Namibian Prime Minister in an exclusive, wide-ranging discussion on the eve of the country’s 21st independence anniversary tackling issues of Namibia’s austerity budget, unemployment, BEE versus TESEF, GIPF, to current issues as recent as the taxi demo, lessons learnt from Egypt and Tunisia’s uprisings, his presidential ambitions and the discharging of retired Lieutenant General Martin Shalli from the defense forces.
PF: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for doing this. There has been tremendous development in Namibia over the last 21 years. To start with, how have you been able to make a difference in this Government?
NA: In the Swapo Party Government, we work as a team not as individuals. I have been a member of the Swapo Party team since 1973 after my undergraduate studies at the University of Zambia. I was assigned to develop an education system for our members in the liberation struggle.
Since that year until the year of our Independence, 1990, I have been extensively involved with Namibian education. The challenge then was providing education under conditions where resources were limited to exiled Namibians and ensure that Namibians get educated amidst the war. At Independence the challenge was to create a new education system accepted internationally. I became Minister of Education in 1990 and had to use the experience and networks from the liberation struggle to create a new platform for the international community to replace the colonial Bantu education system.
These networks proved vital for Namibia as we mobilised the international community to help us overhaul the colonial education system and they obliged.
So my contribution as a person was in the area of educational reform in this Government, in this country. We managed to put up a solid education system, inclusive and at par with the international standards like Cambridge which we had to link up with as a measure of quality assurance. Education has been my humble contribution before, during and after independence.
Eventually I was honoured by President Pohamba, to be appointed Prime Minister and it came with many responsibilities and huge functions which I now perform to the best of my ability so that institutions are established to make sure the requirements of our constitution are met especially the rule of law, democracy, peace and prosperity.
PF: Just to hold you there Sir, you pioneered education in Namibia, but today it’s a State headache. The level of pass rates for Grade 10 and 12 continue on an unconvincing trend. What are your feelings now about this baby you master-minded?
NA: Education by its own nature is forever evolving because the needs of the country change and the needs of the learning community also change and the needs of the economy also change, yet there is no quick fix to education. No country has found the “magic” to fix education, but we all strive to evolve with it because it is forever evolving. I can tell you, when I was Minister of Education, ICT was not a priority. It was not at the centre of things. We prioritised education for all, human rights, participative education and rural education. Today education is ICT centred that’s how evolving education is. As a country we should understand the nature of education.
PF: What about the systems being used in education? Does it not hurt you that you pioneered the Cambridge education system and now it is being abandoned?
NA: That’s how a selective mechanism education is. Education is always evolving and developing as I said. But I can tell you a winning formula is taking place and in terms of quality control, moderation is being done by Government, so there is nothing abnormal about that because the standards are still maintained. I read an article by Andrew Craig in one of the daily papers saying ‘learners do not fail’. It is quiet contradictory. The author said learners fail because in order to pass they must reach a certain norm we set as society. It is the norm setting which determines who passes and who fails. This norm setting is influenced by a number of things for instance, in Namibia, the number of places we have for the next grades determines who fails and who passes, so with enough schools built we could push up the norm. Imagine, during my days as Minister of Education, a 19 point pass rate at Grade 10 was the entry requirement to Grade 11. Then it increased to 20, now it’s 22. Yet the ideal pass rate entry level is 27 points where students would have passed with an A grade, B grade or C grade, the Ds and Fs would not be there. (Laughs) But the Government has decided to remain at 23 points for now as entry requirement pass mark.
PF: Are we ever going to reach 27 points as the entry point requirement?
AN: We can get there but for now if we are to implement it, more kids will not have access to Grade 11. If we build more secondary schools then we can for instance say the pass rate is 20 points because the places will be there to accommodate them. But for now we have set a norm to determine how many students can progress judging on the number of schools we have. That’s why my call has been that we must diversify education, with skills development centres, vocational training centres and so forth. Some children are excellent at sports, why can’t we have a sports academy. If the pupils are good at art or music, why can’t we build a music academy? We want to move away from the traditional methods of education whereby everyone who finishes Grade 12 has to go and study human resource or other fields which are already saturated yet we have other forms of education.
PF: It is indeed a pity that the education system has not convinced the public. But what would you do again if you were given a second chance at the Ministry of Education, something which you regret not doing the first time? And why would you do that?
NA: I regret that a decision was taken during my term as Minister of Education to split the education sector in 1995 where a Ministry of Basic Education and a Ministry of Higher Education were created. That should never have happened. There was no more central planning of education. People were doing their own things without coordination. There was massive polarity affecting the learning population and as Minister of Education I had to call in the World Bank to help us define a common program for education which ended up giving birth to ETSIP (Education and Training Sector Improvement Program).
The idea was to relate the programs of education. ETSIP failed to develop a true National Training Authority (NTA), an organisation which connects vocational educational training. Up to now NTA is lagging behind. The system cannot absorb a large number of young people who come out of school and society is now putting pressure on Government as to why we are allowing repetition hence NamCol gets overburdened. We (Government) have nowhere to take the young people (who fail) but back to school. We have to keep these students somewhere instead of letting them roam around the streets. The NTA must be developed and is yet to be developed because the law is there for them to collect training levy from the employers and use this money and expand vocational training. That is one thing I would have worked on if given a second chance as you put it.
PF: You are blamed for stiffening work permit regulations for fields that have acute skills shortage for example, ICT, scientific and research fields to allow foreign expertise in. How do you plead?
NA: That is short term thinking. In short term, yes you can address that skills gap by importing. However, people should understand that there are competing voices in the population. Labour is saying why should Namibia import foreigners when we have unemployment? And the industry is crying foul over certain skills shortage.Government pleads not guilty. There is a Labour Council where trade unions, employers and Government meet to iron out such issues. We need joint consensus and Government will listen if all parties bring their contributions on this matter with their short term and long term solutions. Strangely, it is the same people who want to import labour who are complaining about the Chinese.
PF: What about the Chinese?
NA: Sometimes there is a shadow in this word of former ‘job reservation’ thing. People were accustomed to job reservation and now they don’t want to do something new but continue with job reservation.
PF: The interesting part is that it is top business people like Frans Aupa Indongo who are very critical of Chinese businesses?
NA: There are complains about Chinese taking over retail business, and yet this is about us as a Government not to target Chinese alone. For instance, if we say retail business cannot be done by non-Namibians, shops like Game and Shoprite, which are not Namibian should also be affected and close shop because they are not Namibian unless they want to operate as wholesale business leaving the actual retail business to Namibians. We should not target the Chinese alone.
PF: But has China been positive or exploitative in Namibia?
NA: My friend, China has more than one billion people (scoffs) It is part of this global village. There is no way you can prevent such a number from being anywhere in the world. Tell me a country where there is no China Town? I learnt about China Town for the first time when I was in New York. Why should we complain about them in Namibia? It is not the people but the way of trading which we must complain about and look into. Why target some particular groups instead of looking into the way they trade and their economic activity? About exploitation, it depends on each Government anywhere in the world to decide what kind of relationship it wants with its counterpart. As a Government, we are busy with rules and regulations about which kind of industry a foreigner can participate in, not just the Chinese but all non-Namibians. We hope this will protect our people and boost their businesses. If one feels they are being exploitative, go into the country’s labour laws, enforce a minimum wage law, if the Chinese or anyone is breaking a law, let the process of courts and the justice system take its course.
PF: Anyway, back to our line of questioning. Apologies for going off the script because you had mentioned something which needed immediate explanation. In your view, according to your watch, how much time do we have towards the attainment of Vision 2030?
NA: It’s a collective responsibility not only for Government but also non government actors and the private sector. Vision 2030 says Namibian society should be transformed in a way that everybody should have a stake in the economy. You should feel that you are part of it and defend it, be it defending your house, your small business or anything you have in Namibia. That means we have to follow a shared growth path which is inclusive, bringing those on the margins onto the centre. It’s about putting in the economy of the country, not some people but all the people first, in shaping livelihood and welfare. Those are the values of the liberation struggle. The struggle was based upon unity and solidarity.
If you talk of time left and time covered, we have to start somewhere. This society was under colonial and apartheid rule for 106 years, therefore it requires some years to rectify and bring it back to normality. We have already successfully started that rectification process with State formation, by building Government under the policy of national reconciliation. There is political consensus.
Yes, we have opposition parties because life is about contesting but overally there is consensus on peace, stability and so on. The nature of our constitution has given citizens basic and fundamental rights, we have also created conditions for economic development that is, capacity building, infrastructure and human development.
Today, 25 percent of the budget is spent on human development; that is education. Ten percent goes to health which is also part of human development while 8 percent is on agriculture to make sure there is food security. The basic things are there. Our communication and transport systems are getting up to standard each day. So we are on course but it is difficult to re-write in 20 years what took 106 years to dismantle.
PF: Sir, about 91 percent (that is: 35 percent extremely poor and 56 percent poor) of Namibian citizens are classified as poor in a country classified as a middle income nation, how do you describe the human development aspect then?
NA: Put that in a historical context. Our people were robbed of their means of livelihood through land grab and other sources of evil. People could not move unless they were on contract, they could not practise certain professions because of the colour of their skin. That was the deprivation that made human development tough. Today, we have a Namibia still full of wires, fenced off lands we cannot go into. The South Africans even imposed dog taxes in the South of our country, so people could not go hunting for food with their dogs unless they paid dog tax, that’s besides the contract labour system which made people poorer.
This Government is starting to build up from zero so that we can address poverty. Poverty is absolute in Namibia but also relative. Absolute in the sense that you people who have no means of livelihood, people stranded on commercial farms, who do not even have an address except that owned by the farmer who locks the gate all the time. So we have people who are dumped along the road when they reach a certain age in Namibia.
These are the issues Government has to deal with in fending for them. Namibia has an extensive safety net programme. Everyone 60 years plus, receives a monthly social payment, the disabled receive money from Government, orphans receive Government support, war veterans and those injured in war and at work are paid in parts from these social safety nets that keep people going in the absence of other means of self-support like productive assets. So Vision 2030 is on course, with the main objective being to make our people have productive assets in the long run. That’s why we have land resettlement program, fish quotas program and giving people explorative license on which the future generations can derive their livelihood. But for now with the social deficit, Government has to continue to increase these social safety nets to cater for the deprived.
PF: Your critics will say Government avoids this question of inequitable distribution of wealth by blaming it on apartheid, 21 years on?
NA: My friend. Even German colonialism which ended in 1915 still has impact on our people. German colonialism was just here for 30 years but the impact was unimaginable. People were massacred; their land was confiscated; means of livelihood was destroyed and they were pushed into so-called communal lands. Some of these communities (communal lands) are now forced to produce wieners to sell to big farmers who will grow them for auction. This was started by Germans who left in 1915, then apartheid came with its own evils such as a black person should not own land or should not have jobs such as engineering. These people built up their properties over time, on the sweat and blood of Namibians working for them, exploited and paid nothing.
How do you catch up with such people? It’s like you are in a marathon race where somebody starts at 6am and you are made to start at 12 mid-day. Twenty one years is not a long time. People don’t want to be reminded of the truth, but we will continue to remind them and convince those who have that the ‘have nots’ are what they are because of their forefathers who were exploited.
Therefore, we must have this program of redress and redistribution.
Many of the people Government is paying social pensions now worked in the mines and railways during the colonial era and they never had pensions. Our Government is paying them. We cannot remove apartheid from this.
PF: Unemployment. Has government done enough for the people when the overwhelming majority of its population wallow in penury? Latest statistics show that unemployment in Namibia is sitting at more than 50 percent and there is massive skills shortage in different sectors of the economy. Don’t those figures frighten you?
AN: Look, unemployment is a matter of concern, not because you are afraid of the huge figures but it is simply a matter and part of human right. People must have a right to livelihood. Unemployment is depriving people a right to humanhood. This issue must be tackled with commitment and vigour. I am glad that last year, we had an unemployment summit hosted in Windhoek and the Director General (DG) of the National Planning Commission (NPC) was tasked to work on a program to really tackle and exhaust unemployment. But unemployment has a lot to do with the nature of our extractive economy. We rely on mining, fisheries, tourism and agriculture to sustain the economy. Only agriculture creates employment from this list, yet our agriculture is vulnerable to environmental conditions for instance, there are no rains at times, just like fisheries whose jobs are also not guaranteed because of its seasonal nature, where in some seasons people have to be retrenched.
Although mining is a major GDP earner, it is a capital intensive business which uses machines more than people and that does not create jobs. We need to focus on something else like ICT, public works and promotion of small and medium industries, getting away from the traditional routes of getting employment because they are not helping us.
A study of ETSIP (Educational and Training Sector Improvement Programme) revealed that there is no interface between the economy and the education system, especially our tertiary institutions. We need to know what skills are in short supply. Tertiary institutions must look at the new skills like ICT, or those that service our mining sector, agriculture, public works or even jobs such as the repairing of our fishing boats in our fisheries sector. Our institutions of higher learning have not done that. They are continuing with traditional ways. Career guidance to young people is needed to link schools with industry and industry with schools.
This is what is required, to take the students to career fairs, tourism, mining, agriculture etc; so that when they choose their Grade 12 subjects they know where they want to focus in life. We have children going to school just with the hope of one day getting a job, nothing else. This is a wrong mentality and it worsens the skills shortage. They graduate with qualifications that do not fit our economy and then they sit at home. I get bombarded at this office by young people who have graduated from our institutions but can’t find jobs for years. I hope the NPC DG (Tom Alweendo) will soon present to Cabinet a programme to make a difference. We cannot continue with business as usual when unemployment is rife like this and Namcol is flooded with people who will get out of Namcol the moment they get a job. But...
PF: When is Mr. Alweendo’s deadline to find this remedy?
AN: It was last year already. Last year is no more here. But since we just came from the holidays, I believe sooner he will be hitting the ground with the issue, because it is an urgent matter.
PF: Allow me to dwell on your office a bit. How do you respond to the argument that the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has become too bureaucratic and powerless over the years, and how do you think the OPM can become more effective in achieving its goals?
AN: There is a lot of misunderstanding about the Office of the Prime Minister (laughs). Perhaps I must explain what the OPM is all about. The OPM is there to provide services to other ministries and agencies of Government in order for them to improve service delivery. Such services are the ones being provided by, for example, the Public Service Commission to recruit people and regulate employment in the public services.
We are also there to build capacity in the public services that is why we have NIPAM to train public servants so that they have the competence required to deliver services to the public. The OPM also offers a coordination function for synergy in the public sector in terms of different sectors doing different things orderly. We eradicate Government lone rangers, like someone putting up a clinic in a village, then another coming to build a road within the same vicinity, and the other one erecting electricity at the village with a road but without a clinic.
Coordination is the most difficult function of the OPM because people build boundaries and frontiers in Government which they don’t want others to enter, moreso if you are working with people you are not the appointing authority. You have to depend on their goodwill and deal with that goodwill as well.
So our job is not visible to the public because of its own nature.
We also have the work of the Cabinet which we coordinate, being an Executive arm of the Government. We have the legislative program where the Prime Minister is the leader of Government business in parliament. When people make laws in parliament, the public does not know that there is connection required in parliament to make those laws. I don’t just sit as a member of parliament and assist. I will be leading Government decisions in parliament. We have special programs like in times of disaster to deliver services and save lives. We have the special programs like the San development program. Our Government has to make sure that no one is on the margins. It is our role to mainstream everybody.
We have a monitoring function as well; on disability, HIV/AIDS, State Owned Enterprises, Councils and we oversee them. Our hands are full and you cannot say we are not effective with such a workload.
PF: Perhaps the problem is that there is no awareness among Namibians about these public service functions you perform? And it will still come back to you to…
NA: We are not working for people to clap hands but for them to have services. If they don’t appreciate the service they have, it is up to them. We cannot climb on top of the mountain and say ‘look now we have controlled the SOEs, clap hands for me’. No. It does not work like that. We keep delivering.
PF: The Constitution stipulates that the PSC is an independent and impartial body, but it is still under the OPM. Why is this so? Why can it not be given its own independence, budget etc?
NA: The PSC is by constitution an independent body. OPM only provides administrative back up. We don’t interfere with their decisions. When they are hiring and firing we are not involved.
PF: The PSC, its Secretariat and the Department of Public Services Management is working under insecure environment at the dilapidated United House. The media has written about this and still no action has been taken. Just recently, the elevators were not working, among other things. Are you waiting for disaster to strike first?
NA: We are aware of those conditions they are working under but the cost of hiring space in Windhoek is so exorbitant especially when hiring from private sector. We are renovating the Old State House for the OPM. This can house some of the people from United House. I agree, where they are right now is not a comfortable environment.
PF: Government has made strides in making information available on its websites, but if one is to browse through, a number of them are outdated, with the exception of the OPM’s website. The rest have nothing new.
NA: As much as we seem to be a progressive Government, we tend to be conservative in attitude and actions. ICT is there to educate people but cell phones seem to be the only aspect of ICT Namibians’ use, if it’s not for gossip or other social activities like Facebook or twitter.
Just with a click of a button, I can know what is happening at Tahrir Square (heart of recent Egyptian demonstrations). We have struggled to get e-government into place but most of all we struggled to interest the public servants to become ICT aware. We have even given Unam and the Polytechnic equipment for civil servants to be ICT literate at very low costs. But no one seems to care about it. Only few have taken those opportunities. Every ministry is supposed to have an ICT unit but the ones that are there seem to be for decor. Unfortunately or fortunately, we have devised a requirement which states that for one to be employed in the public services, they should be ICT competent among all the other requirements.
ICT literacy is now a requirement to get into Government.
Government’s annual reports should now be posted on our systems but that has not been happening and the few that are seriously doing that, there is no one from Government to read them.
Instead of us standing on the mountain and shouting about what we have done or what we are doing, our critics like Mr Hengari (Namibian newspaper political columnist Alfredo T. Hengari) should go to the website of the OPM so that he does not write those personal things which he is not well informed of.
PF: It’s amazing that Minister of Defence, Major General (retired) Charles Namoloh and Tourism and Environment Minister Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwah are very much ICT active and prefer using ICT as a means of communication and information transferring. But there are a lot of top managers in Government and other influential positions who still prefer faxes or hand-delivered letters to emails? Besides, Government internet is very slow. Some don’t even trust it, they say.
AN: We don’t have a law yet to regulate ICT in Government communication. Even your signature on your computer that you attach to signed documents, if those documents go to court, the signature will not be recognised but be deemed null and void because there is no law that regulates digitalised stuff like those in Namibia. At least for now we have begun using new ICT filing means but for exchanging documents. We have to wait a little because we are not quiet sure. Also as a way to protect Government information, proper measures have to be put in place before we can start exchanging vital details. Look what Wikileaks did to the Americans. A computer is a good thing needed in government every day, we must use it, but for now there are certain issues where we cannot use it because of the absence of certain laws.
PF: Mr Prime Minister, may you briefly explain why Cabinet appointed you to lead the current enquiry on Government Pension Institution Fund (GIPF)? And how far is the Auditor General’s probe on the issue?
AN: I am not leading the GIPF enquiry. There is a huge misconception. I am merely a messenger. Enquiry has been led by the Auditor General on the instruction of the President. I was a messenger, a post office, I don’t know anything. It is being done by the President through me to the Auditor General.
PF: But still, how will Government rectify the GIPF if the audit that was instituted is complete?
AN: The audit is focusing on something that happened eight years ago but all along GIPF has been growing and functioning well. The audit is about things which took place when the company was maybe N$20 billion strong, now it is N$42 billion strong. The audit is only checking if there was any possible wrong doings in some of the businesses funded by GIPF that time.
PF: How and does Government have the required power to institute action against the GIPF defaulters if the audit proves that there were irregularities?
NA: Easy. The law will take its course, period. Likely through the Office of the Prosecutor General.
PF: Do you admit that Government is talking more than it is acting for a country at 21?
NA: We have been doing both but people are impressed by those who talk more. I prefer to do more than to talk more. It is not a question of doing but for the majority, what problems are remaining is what matters to them, not largely what has been done. I once went to inaugurate a rural school when I was Minister of Education. As I finished the inauguration of the new school, a man from the crowd stood up and said now that there is a school, they wanted electricity. Another one voiced that a clinic should be set-up. I was not the Minister of Energy or Health, (laughs) but these people were seemingly not satisfied with the school. So you cannot deal with all things at one time, people focus on those that we don’t do. I am glad I recently drove past that rural area and noticed some lights in the area (chuckles).
PF: Do you subscribe to the notion that Government does not have money?
NA: Yes and No. To my folks, the civil servants, Government does not have money because it is not just for salaries but other needs. Government has the money but it must be divided to meet other things. Money might be there but there are competing demands.
PF: You were behind the Transformational Economic and Social Empowerment Framework ( TESEF) as a more liberal approach to empowerment but you have received strong opposition to that. Is TESEF working and have you considered the opinions of those who oppose the program?
NA: First of all, it is wrong to say, TESEF is liberal. It is socialist oriented and carries the values and ethos of the ruling Swapo Party. It is meant for everyone to have a share. The liberation struggle was about sharing and justice and solidarity.
We cannot come with a program as if it was designed in a Chicago School. There is no social justice to the current empowerment program. It’s like Magreth Thatcher designed it. So I am glad the Swapo Party is democratic and everyone is entitled to their own opinions, the voices of those that opposed TESEF have been heard and it is for the party to decide.
PF: So it is indeed true that Government is mulling a new program different and distant from BEE and TESEF?
NA: It’s a new name but same programme, all inclusive and about empowering all Namibians.
PF: But why has Government and its critics been arguing that BEE enriches a few yet we don’t have a BEE policy? Who has been enriched by something non-existent?
NA: It did not start here. BEE started and came from South Africa. Our Swapo Party led Government needs a policy which is transformational. Blacks suffered through oppression but BEE is not addressing all the blacks except a few.
We must have a program which addresses the needs of our people. There will be high fliers of course but there will also be those ones that want Government to act for them first. Government can create an environment conducive with a better empowerment policy.
PF: This is where I get lost in translation Honourable Prime Minister. Is there a disconnection between the ruling party and Government behaviour? At times there seems to be some changes from the political programme of the ruling party Swapo by Government. For instance, the issue of rural development and BEE are in the first manifesto under the Ideals of Swapo 1989 but the fact that we do not have a BEE policy and rural development initiatives have been stalled seems to suggest that some aspirations are forgotten.
NA: That we don’t have a BEE policy is the democratic nature of Swapo to allow debate. The debate has been concluded now.
But you are also right. There might be a disconnection because we inherit certain cultures of doing things in government which don’t open themselves to innovation. Government brokers have inertia, one step forward, and two steps back.
We should be more innovative, take risks knowing the possibility of failure.
PF: Before Epangelo, Namibia has given 100% ownership of mines to foreigners. Is this not the disconnection between what the ruling party says and what Government says?
NA: It is true, historically very correct. But there is a revolution of change in the mindsets of multinational companies, I think largely because of what is happening in Nigeria where locals revolt if you benefit from their resources without giving something back to them. There is a fresh attitude of sharing by international partners, so Government now has to bring what the ruling party says in its manifesto and what is on the ground. The Chamber of Mines is busy coordinating a Mining Charter with emphasis on sharing community development. Attitude will remain a bigger challenge.
PF: It is gratifying to note that the Tender Act is currently under review. What should be the key elements of this review? From your own point of view, who should be on the Tender Board? We have seen business people serving on the Tender Board and resulting in ‘corrupt tendencies’, before.
NA: Who should watch the Tender Board is more important than any of this. We need a Tender Board Ombudsman where people who feel short changed in the tendering system can go to. There is serious need for someone to watch and check the Tender Board.
PF: A senior member of the ruling party recently wrote an article bemoaning why every construction tender has been going to the Chinese. What did you make of that article if you read it by any chance?
NA: It’s interesting. The United States has recently come up with a new requirement saying any State Owned Enterprise subsidised by Government should not tender for American contracts. The playing field has not been level and we need to follow that even where it includes multinational companies in Namibia.
PF: Corruption continues to be a stumbling block in corporate governance. Has corruption increased or decreased?
NA: Corruption is a perception. Anyone can read the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) report for 2010 and understand how many cases have been investigated and solved, how many have been sent to the Prosecutor General. For politicians like Jesaya Nyamu, corruption is a good song yet things happened under his watch when he was in Government.
PF: For the majority, the peasants, corruption is continuously blamed on ‘small fish’ that is randomly targeted by the ACC.
NA: That is another perception. The ACC does not initiate investigation. It acts on reports. If no one reports on the so called ‘big fish’, then should we blame the ACC? We need to grab copies of that 2010 report and see where the corruption fight is making inroads and make judgements.
PF: What are your opinions on the recent taxi stand-off? A Walvis Bay driver was fined N$17 000 and the authorities are reportedly to have made more than N$2 million in a fortnight. Are there no other alternatives than making people poor? In Europe they suspend the driver’s license instead of sending people to jail or subjecting them to poverty?
NA: It is a big misunderstanding. Government was not effectively communicating with the public on the matter. Admission of guilt is part of procedure. You cannot settle things in court for violating certain issues.
Big amounts are for those who violate the law. If one cannot pay, they can go to court. Taking a licence is more draconic.
PF: How do you interpret the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia? What lessons have you learnt as Head of Government?
NA: We are a democratic country. We should listen to the voice of our citizens all the times and act accordingly.
PF: Mr Prime Minister, the perception is that Government views NGOs as enemies of the State? Government does not consult civil society enough when it wants to decide on critical aspects like new laws, national budget, other priorities etc?
NA: We consult them. There is a window with the NPC to make them part of us in decision making and they must make use of that. I am also running an NGO called Foundation for Community Development. It is not true that NGOs are victimised. Namibia is a democratic country. It’s the NGOs themselves who want to be adversaries to Government not compatriots in development and they are looking for such loopholes of victimisation. But one can go to the Ombudsman and report their case. Of course, they have been instances where it has become a case of individual attitude, not the whole NGOs.
PF: By banning virtually all radio phone-in programmes on NBC Radio and the “systematic dismissals of persons from the public service simply because they are suspected of belonging to opposition parties” Government stands accused of leaning towards a disregard of freedom of association, freedom of speech and so on.
NA: NBC was being abused by politically motivated individuals. Certain individuals were being insulted on those shows and they could not call themselves to clear the air or defend their cases. But I understand the NBC DG is working on call- in programs that are filtered for development’s case not political ambitions of others.
PF: Barely a week after you were quoted in a weekly paper saying the absence of a permanent army chief in the country “for such a long time”, was not good, then suspended Defence Chief, Lieutenant General Shalli’s case was opened and he was discharged. Do you feel this perhaps had your influence?
NA: That interview took place a long time ago, sometime in 2010. It was only published in 2011. I had nothing to do with that. I was not even aware of the recent activities because my superior (the President) handles that part.
PF: Honourable Prime Minister, let’s talk about you Sir. The perception out there is that the PM is a simple man, down to earth, not fond of luxury and the hype associated with the position. Is that so?
AN: I am a teacher by profession. I am more comfortable being in front of school children.
PF: You have been criticised often for expressing opinion in your personal capacity as Citizen Nahas, rather than Prime Minster Nahas Angula.
AN: First of all, I am a citizen, I have a voice and I have my own opinions. Secondly, I am a professional, I give my professional advice and coming from a teaching profession, you can imagine. Thirdly, I am a politician, I have a political appointee function, and there are Government problems and procedures I have to follow whether I agree with them or not. (Namibian columnist Alfred) Hengari should make a difference between those three roles I represent as Nahas Angula.
PF: In 2014, do you harbour Presidential ambitions?
NA: How old am I?
NA: Ya. So I will be in my 70s in 2014. It’s time to tshayela (South African slang for knock off). I have been in the public service since 1973. I have had my time, I do not harbour any presidential ambitions come 2014. I will tshayela.
PF: What does 21 years of independence mean to you?
NA: We must celebrate 21 years of peace, freedom and progress. This might not have served all our problems but 21 years have provided us with opportunities to define ourselves as individuals and as a nation. We have to act 21 now. Mature, totally independent and striving for a certain goal in life. This is the perfect time to act and create better activities for the future on self empowerment. Everything starts with us and in us as individuals not expecting other people to be empowered to drive us. We are 21 that is what it means.
PF: Mr Prime Minister thank you for your time, but before we call it a day, don’t you share the fear that of the three branches of Government, we have some members of the Executive mingling with the Legislature, whereas the Judiciary does not? Is this not hampering accountability? Who will the Ministers report to? Because even the President who is the Executive does not interfere with the Legislature.
NA: The constitution prescribes that to be a Minister one must be a Member of Parliament. There are members of the Executive and the Legislature. Yes, claims are being made but since Swapo is the ruling party, the legislation is dominated by the Executive. It’s not our fault that such a situation exists. It’s the voters who have faith in the Swapo Party Government to deliver and it’s delivering. If the voters continue to give the 2/3 majority, then Halleluiah!
Besides, our backbenchers are as equally sharp as the opposition. They participate in parliament committees to oversee the function and role of the Executive.
PF: Mr Prime Minister, thank you for your time. PF
Who is Nahas Angula?
Nahas Angula is the third Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia since independence in March 1990.
He is, however, the first Prime Minister under the country’s new leadership of President Hifikepunye Pohamba who took over reigns from the Founding President, Dr. Sam Nujoma on 21st March 2005.
Prior to his appointment as Prime Minister, he was the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Employment Creation that changed from Ministry of Higher Education, Vocational Training, Science and Technology.
He is a Member of the Namibian Parliament, the ruling party’s Politburo and Central Committee. He was a Member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the country’s Constitution, which is today perceived as one of the best across the globe.
Angula was also one of the ruling party’s three candidates, nominated at its Central Committee meeting as contest for the party’s presidential candidate, for the national elections that took place in November 2004.
He has published numerous policy papers on the country’s education, among them, Angula Nahas, “Civil Society, Research in Policy Formulation in Namibia” in Snyder Conrad (ed), “Exploring the Complexities of Education”, 1999, Gamsberg/Macmillan, Angula Nahas, “Education for ALL: The Namibia Experience” in Zeichner Kenneth and Dahlstrom, (eds) “Democratic Teacher Education Reform in Africa”, 1978, Westviews Press, USA, and Angula Nahas, Grant-Lewis Suzanne, “Promoting Democratic Processes in Educational Decision Making: Reflections from Namibia’s First Five Years”, in the Internal Journal of Education Development.
On April 1 1989, when the cease-fire agreement between the Swapo Party and South Africa broke down, Angula led a delegation of officers of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) to negotiate a cease-fire agreement with the South African Government.
Upon his return from exile in 1989, Angula assumed the task of Voter Registration and Education of Swapo’s Election Directorate during the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 435.
He served as SWAPO’s first Secretary for Information and Publicity and later as Secretary for Education and Culture in Luanda, Angola, 1981, as an International Civil Servant at the United Nations Headquarters from 1976 to 1980. He is also the founder member of Namibia Education Centre (School) for Namibian refugees near Lusaka, Zambia where he served as both a teacher and the Head of the school in 1974.
Born on August 22, 1943, at Onyaanya in Oshikoto region, Angula holds M.A. and M.ED degrees from Columbia University in New York and a Bachelor of Education Degree from the University of Zambia.
After Namibia’s Independence, Angula continued his postgraduate studies at the University of Manchester, UK, on distance learning basis.
He won the Baxter Award for Best Student in the field of Education from the University of Zambia in 1972 while the College of Prospectors of Britain awarded him an honorary degree in 1996. He is currently a member of Peace Research Association, International and Comparative Education Research Association (CIES), Twenty First Century Trust, a political think tank as well as NORAG, a research network linking Northern and Southern Researchers on development issues.
Prime Minister Angula is married to Tangeni, the Chief Executive Officer of the Namibia Institute of Patholgy (NIP), and the couple is blessed with two daughters and two sons. PF