The Participatory Poverty Eradication Drive (PPED) found that unemployment and lack of basic needs such water, sanitation, food security, electricity and the lack of education are common to most of the regions. During PPED, not only were traditional and community leaders and senior government officials, but also people on streets, given the opportunity to talk openly and frankly on the subject to obtain relevant and useful information and evidence about the nature and extent of poverty, its fundamental causes and how to address and resolve those causes objectively and in a systematic manner. This experience through PPED was lively and buoyant.
People in the 14 regions highly appreciated and valued the opportunity given to them through PPED because the Hon Minister, Deputy Ministers and the Permanent Secretary moved with people freely and in a very friendly manner. This aspect is vitally important as the MPESW first has to win the confidence and hearts of the people at the grass-roots in order to win the war against poverty. In fact, poverty eradication is a collective and all-inclusive undertaking and it is poor-people centred.
Finally, MPESW promised to meet again at a national conference in Windhoek to present the findings of PPED for further discussions on the way forward. This promise was crucial to retain the momentum generated in the 14 regional dialogues through PPED. In light of all the above, PPED was a watershed of the poverty eradication endeavour and as such seen as a huge practical and workable experience than a concept confined to the text books of poverty eradication.There is no doubt that researchers and scholars in poverty eradication will cite the PPED experience in Namibia as a good and relevant example which is in the right direction to generate the expected outcomes. Finally, findings of the regional PPED have been published by the MPESW and this is the latest poverty profile (snapshot) of Namibia which is highly reliable, credible and acceptable. In fact, this is the first time Namibia witnessed such a resourceful and illustrative publication about the nature and extent of poverty in a short period. This work of the newly established ministry is highly commendable, valued and appreciated on the way forward to eradicate poverty.
Sixth, the National Conference on Wealth Distribution and Poverty Eradication held on 26-27 October 2015 in Windhoek was a significant milestone of PPED that should be carved on rock due to many reasons. It was officially opened by the Head of State. The First Lady, Cabinet Ministers, Regional Governors, Traditional Leaders and other Stakeholders attended the conference. This was the first time such a ‘full-house-poverty gathering’ was seen under one umbrella since independence. All attendees were enthusiastic and excited about the utmost commitment of the President and the government to eradicate poverty. This momentous milestone can be assessed and valued in many ways.
The ‘full-house poverty gathering’ represented the nation and its united and collective views, wisdom and desires to burn poverty from the surface of Namibia. All spoke with a sense of profound knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. The conference constituted seven sessions which objectively focused on the various and important aspects of poverty eradication. His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, re-iterated his commitment to the endeavour of which each single word of the speech was highly embraced by the participants. In fact, the participation and contribution by the President convinced the gathering that he is moving with the poor and the people until such a time that poverty is eradicated from the country. This cemented the expectations of the attendees and nation.
In my view, the above approach is the ultimate trust and strength of the poverty eradication endeavour because not only did the President propose the endeavour but he also participates constructively and contributes continuously to generate the expected outcomes of the endeavour. In other words, the President has been with the poor and other stakeholders since he delivered his maiden State of the Nation Address in which the declaration of war against poverty was the top priority. When the leader leads, other players can ably manage the poverty eradication endeavour without any difficulty through PPED throughout the country. The conference provided the essential input, vital suggestions and feedback to prepare a blueprint for the poverty eradication endeavour.
Seventh, through the PPED, it was understood with evidence that poverty cannot be eradicated with the provision of basic needs alone. In a deeper sense, poverty is the vicious and brutal enemy of mankind. It is unwanted and welcome by none. Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor. It is not a war that can won by a single weapon. No single weapon has ever been produced to eradicate poverty fortnightly, in a year or two. As poverty is a multidimensional issue, it has to be fought on all fronts, from cities to the corners of villages through agreement with the people. Poverty does not have a colour or sound but it rotates around the poor 24 hours. Poverty is the deepest deprivation of human dignity, respect and esteem. The poor have to be empowered economically, socially, politically and culturally. Above all, the nation has agreed through the PPED to be united to win the war against poverty.
Conclusion: Along with the 25th celebrations of independence in 2015, Namibia witnessed the ultimate commitment and dedication by His Excellency President Dr Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia to eradicate poverty. This commitment is not just a chapter of a textbook on poverty eradication. His commitment and dedication to eradicate poverty is driven by his continuous engagement, participation and contribution to the poverty eradication endeavour. In fact, he is sitting with the poor and the people since he declared war against poverty. The leadership quality of the President is as such that he is a benevolent guardian of the poor and the nation.
• Dr Asoka Seneviratne was with the National Planning Commission (NPC) in the Office of the President. He was the Special Advisor to the Director-General of the NPC (2006-2011) appointed by the President.