Chief Political Reporter Mathias Haufiku speaks to leader of the opposition in parliament and DTA president McHenry Venaani on a range of issues.
NE: You have been at the helm of the party since 2013, tell us a bit how you find the new position?
MV: It has been good so far and I had to adjust to the complexity of the job at the beginning, especially when we had an internal misunderstanding with our former leader [Katuutire Kaura] and how I dealt with it and the election campaign that was looming at the time. What I can say is that I have done the job quite well and I always allow a situation where I am not led by emotions because the buck stops with me so I always want to listen to all the sides of a story before I come to a conclusive positon. In a nutshell, my journey has been one where we took difficult decisions, especially when I had to take the responsibility of revoking the suspension of Honourable Kaura from the party in order to protect the party and give peace a chance.
NE: Your party has been on a robust activism trail since you took over. Is this what the nation can expect over the next five years or is it merely a case of new brooms sweeping clean?
MV: You will see more engaging opposition politics and alternative positioning of the party from us. We will put our positions as alternatives to that of the ruling party and we usher in a new era of policy formulation in this country. The first month we were confronted with the budget where we tackled several pertinent issues. When we come back from recess we will be more robust on issues of poverty eradication, landlessness. One issue that confronts our modern society is that we have a large landmass against a small population yet we do not have land. It is a travesty and paralysis of collective leadership in this country. We cannot tell ourselves that in our lifetime 2.1 million Namibians cannot get land. With this landmass every Namibian must have land of at least 10 hectares.
NE: Regarding the land concerns across the country, what is your take on the Affirmative Repositioning movement?
MV: I think they have a very fair concern about land availability. That is why we are mooting for urban land resettlement as a means of accessing and allowing poor people to have equity in their hands. If you look at Windhoek and the dichotomy of the high Gini coefficient – west of Windhoek belongs to the municipality but in the eastern part of the town every piece of land belongs to the barons and elites.
NE: Local authority elections are slated for later this year. How prepared is your party?
MV: One of the biggest challenges is preparation even though we started in February already. We are strengthening the institutional capacity of the party to be able to reflect on elections because survival for any party hinges on the attention given to the local authority elections, which has the potential to grow the party. We want to grow in any strata of governance. We are working towards identifying candidates and I promise that we will have one of the most open processes. We already took a decision that for the local authority elections we will be the first party in this country to advertise positions. By doing so we want to attract qualitative members of the party to be given the opportunity to serve the people. Right now we are seeing a sorry state of affairs where all councils run by the ruling party are allocating land to themselves, so there is an erosion of corporate governance at local authority level.
NE: You recently suspended your secretary general Vinsent Kanyetu and two regional leaders. What was that about?
MV: It was one of the most difficult decisions I had to take since I became president especially considering the fact that the local authority elections are in sight. I always argue on the premise that any case involving corruption or where there is perceived corruption one cannot be diplomatic about it. If I were to be diplomatic then it would be the same for the president to be diplomatic if a minister awards a tender to his wife. If the party wants to be an agent of change and accountability, its own internal mechanisms should also be tight because we cannot blame government for misappropriation and abuse of state resources yet our own systems are not tight.
NE: On what issues will the DTA base its campaign for the local authority elections?
MV: Service delivery will be our main focus. Take the Windhoek Municipality for instance, every month they bill us based on an estimated amount, up to now we did not computerize the system so that people can be charged electricity on the basis of actual usage hence the only people that are really paying actual usage are those on the card system. There is a need to make sure that local authority governance protects consumers. Availability of land will also be on our agenda because a municipality like Windhoek is surrounded by farms that are mostly leased to previously advantaged Namibians. No farm leased around Windhoek belongs to the previously disadvantaged Namibians. The question of equity should be addressed so that poor people can be included in the beneficiating programmes of the town councils.
NE: In terms of gender parity how far has the DTA gone to ensure it has many women in positions of power and what is your stance on gender equality?
MV: During our last parliamentary list we achieved 47 percent female representation and in the National Assembly it currently stands at 46 percent, which is not far away from 50 percent. But during the local authority elections we will surpass 50 percent because more women can play a participatory role there. I believe in gender parity. Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila came as a young lady, but today she is a very respected lawmaker. We should demonstrate that our women can do things correctly and fairly.
NE: Tell us about your remarks recently that Kaptein Hendrick Witbooi is overrated …
MV: Firstly I must admit that it was not correct for me to use the word “overrate” because it made it look as if I was eroding the contribution of Kaptein Witbooi. There is only one problem we have in this country – the way we debate. People try to get the fine line but refuse to read deeper into what was said. Chief Maharero and Chief Fredericks, Jacob Marengo and Nehale ya Mpingana are all somehow left out. We should learn to write our history in its totality and not narrow it down to a few people. Chief Hosea Kutako has an airport named after him, a statue in front of parliament and streets named after him. I am not denoting his contribution, but we must start sharing the recognition equally. I would like to assure the entire Nama nation that I am not a leader who thinks along tribal lines. I once more apologise to those I offended and I really mean it.