By Catherine Sasman
The overall human rights situation in the country has not “materially” improved from the “life-threatening” situation of the previous year, reported the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) yesterday.
Launching its Human Rights Report 2007 – covering the period August 1, 2006 to September this year – the organisation said the period was characterized by a host of socio-economic injustices and civil and political problems.
It highlights the combined Visitors’ Opinion Assessment Register (VOAR) of Namibians polled in Windhoek, Katima Mulilo, Eenhana, Mariental, Opuwo, Oshakati, and Rundu.
According to the outcome of the poll, unemployment is considered the biggest national challenge, followed by poverty and a lack of access to water.
“The state of affairs is incompatible with the numerous largely unfulfilled promises, which the ruling elite made upon the achievement of Namibian independence and statehood 17 years ago,” states the report, adding that the probability of achieving the 2000 UN Millennium Development Goals appears to be “extremely remote”.
Since the beginning of this year, said the NSHR, there have been persistent reports of widening socio-political divisions and ostensibly unbridgeable rifts in both the ruling SWAPO Party and the main opposition party, the Congress of Democrats (CoD).
“An invidious leadership crisis beleaguered the nation as confusion raged on about the real Head of State and the Government. This state of affairs resulted in a virtual bogging down of the entire Government’s administrative machinery,” criticized the NSHR.
The root causes for the “ever-deteriorating” cultural, economic, environmental and social rights (CEESRs), said the report, is due to administrative deficiencies and incompetence, a faltering decentralization process, and corruption and mismanagement.
Another factor aggravating the situation, said the NSHR, is an uncompetitive investment regime, marked by “dubious investment companies and questionable financial dealings”.
“A poor work ethic, restrictive labour regulations and a poorly educated workforce, as well as corruption were but a few of the contributing factors to Namibia’s plummeting five places down the global economic competitive rankings,” said the report.
Moreover, it said a general consensus is that the Namibian Government remains one of the world’s worst inequitable distributors of income, that rising banking interest rates and escalating fuel prices and corresponding increases in bulk prices of water and electricity, further mar Namibia’s human rights landscape.
The organization bemoaned the unemployment situation despite the country having been classified as a middle-income country.
It said that political intolerance from a small die-hard group of supporters of former President Sam Nujoma has similarly qualitatively and quantitatively increased dramatically.
This situation has manifested itself through frequent attacks on freedom of expression and opinion and the issuance of death threats directed at the NSHR and its director, Phil ya Nangoloh, following the submission made to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Conversely, said the NSHR, the frequency of other civil and political rights violations have decreased considerably.
During the period of review, at least six discrete incidents and situations of summary executions – referring to actual politically motivated or attempted persecution against any person or group – remain unresolved.
It said that there had not been any investigations to account for incidents of extra-judicial executions with the 1999 to 2001 armed conflicts in the Ohangwena, Kavango and Caprivi Regions.
It enumerated 11 incidents or situations of “deprivation of life” – which includes hate crimes, incitement to public violence, hate expression, veiled and/or overt death threats or actual killings – blaming the Swapo Party for eight of such incidents.
Similarly, 15 non-politically motivated killings were observed during the period, and 10 incidents of torture were recorded.
According to NSHR, six acts of torture were committed by the Namibian Police, and one by the Corrections and Prison Services. Another three involving rape, Spartan detention conditions and servitude for the San people were also recorded.
It further said that NamPol was responsible for 14 cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty – referring to short or prolonged deprivation of freedom of movement or the ability to do something freely.
Two of these cases relate to the Caprivi high treason trialists, and one involved the case of US citizen Norman Escoffrey who was incarcerated for 18 months without charge, and the arrest and detention of a traditional leader in the Oshikango area.
It recommended that founding father of the nation Dr Sam Nujoma should retire “entirely and completely” from active partisan politics for Namibia to move forward.
It further said the country should be administered in accordance with the provisions of the Namibian Constitution instead of the SWAPO Party Election Manifesto of 2004.
As a last note, it stated that the Anti-Corruption Commission should tackle “big fish” corruption to regain credibility.