By Alexactus T Kaure
Last week the Government announced the start of the implementation of the German Special Initiative with all the fanfare that usually accompanies such agreements.
The programme is intended to benefit communities that suffered under German colonial rule a century or so ago. A total of 20 million euros (N$200 million) is now available for the programme.
However, a Namibian Member of Parliament says the special initiative is divisive. Approached for comment, Arnold Tjihuiko, a Nudo MP, said he agrees that this was an agreement between the two governments but he fears the initiative has a tribal ring to it. He says that although certain communities suffered under German rule, the whole country should benefit under such a programme.
“It doesn’t matter where you build a school the whole country would still benefit,” he said.
He wanted to know who would decide which project goes where, between the community involved and the German government.
Michael Kahuika, Director of Administration in the Karas Regional Council, says this is a German offer and there was hardly any negotiation between the German government and the affected communities to air their views as to the amount and type of projects they wanted.
Asked for comment, the Permanent Secretary at the National Planning Commission, Mocks Shivute, conceded that the Germans are the ones who are in the driving seat. He said the Germans decide where the money should go, perhaps corroborating what Kahuika and Tjihuiko are contending.
However, the German Ambassador, Ame Freiherr von Kittlitz und Ottendorf, says it is the NPC that decides on the type of projects to be implemented. The Ambassador further says the consultants, again mainly from Germany, are only a link between the NPC and communities and do not necessarily decide on which projects should be implemented.
Both Kahuika and Tjihuiko say that their position is that there is no link between the special initiative and the issue of reparations.
However, the German position seems vague on this issue.
In a letter written by Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, to Chief Alphons Maharero, which is in the possession of New Era, it was stated that: “The Special Initiative is expressly geared to a future-oriented development process rather than backward-looking ‘reparations’.”
The reparations issue has become the proverbial frog on the beer mug and Tjihuiko says this is going to be the make or break year. Kahuika agrees, saying that there is now a national consensus on the issue of reparations.
Tjihuiko argues that once the money comes, it should benefit the whole country and not just certain communities.
“I’m sick and tired of this divide and rule [tactic] by the Germans and nobody should talk about us without us,” the MP says angrily.
At face value, this is a simple issue on development cooperation. However, there are undercurrents – questions of money and power and as to who decides on what and who has the final say.
Shivute was at pains to explain that communities and local government structures were all involved.
Kahuika, however, is not convinced by this saying ‘yes’ there were some few meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister but the communities are still peripheral to the whole programme. The Ambassador agrees there might have been certain communities that were not properly consulted due to time constraints.
But Shivute is upbeat, saying they are ready to implement or fast-track certain projects even before month-end because the money is here sitting with another German development agency, the Kreditansalt fur Wiederaufbau.
No one seems to have an answer as to why the money is not with the Namibian Government yet, raising fears that the Germans are actually the ones in control.