DTA president McHenry Venaani says it is no longer acceptable that 25 years after Independence that foreign donors are the only ones funding non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country.
Venaani made the remark yesterday at parliament when he met with a group of about 10 different Namibian NGOs to discuss poverty eradication. He said his engagement will help him push for reform in parliament.
Of late, several donors have pulled out of Namibia, as the country has been classified as an upper middle income country, thus compelling some donors to scale down on funding NGOs, as they shift the focus to capacity building.
Venaani said African governments must start owning up to the work of NGOs. “Political parties are very strained on the ground. We are present, but our presence does not cover those social sectors,” he noted.
“I’m going to lobby very seriously and it’s something very close to my heart that our government should also look at the position to support even 20 percent of the NGO’s budget. Even if these foreign donors are withdrawing from our country, African governments must start filling the gap to sustain NGOs,” he remarked.
Venaani said he is aware of the mismanagement of funds by some NGOs and the lack of resource governance, although in the same vein he acknowledged that not all NGOs mismanage their resources.
“We do not want to finance NGOs of political parties to proliferate them. It happened in Angola during the 2004 elections where parties received U$20 000. Angola at the time had about 1 000 political parties and people were using them to create briefcase political parties. I’m not saying everyone must create an NGO for funding,” he said.
He plans to table a motion to call for youth venture capital to finance and bankroll small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“Everytime young people want to start a business they are asked for collateral. Now we are saying, as in Kenya for example, they started giving money to young people and accessing money without collateral,” he said.
He said Namibia lacks “strong lobbying” on burning issues, such as the current housing crisis that affects mostly the youth who find it difficult to become homeowners.
Venaani said African governments have the capacity to finance at least a third of NGO budgets: “Just like the Americans who have supported NGOs to spread their messages across the world.”
He said such NGOs should be identified so government can render the necessary support to fund their programmes and thus alleviate poverty.
The DTA leader strongly believes NGOs provide the most suitable agency to fight poverty, as they are in the field working with communities and questioned whether the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare properly consulted NGOs on anti-poverty strategies, such as plans to establish food banks.
“Without involving the NGOs, one cannot properly fight social ills. We also want to engage NGOs on the question of information sharing. We cannot effectively represent the population of our country without information sharing, cross-fertilisation and without double-checking what others have already worked on to be able to use that scientific research,” he said.
According to him, there must be a strong synergy between legislators and NGOs who have a plethora of statistics on issues affecting Namibia.
“How do you want to represent the country if you’re not meeting the sectors that are key in helping with research for MPs to execute their work in a much easier way?” he asked. He further said Namibia lacks researchers in the legislative organ and that parliament does not have enough scholars. He also noted that scientific research is key towards the effectiveness of the work of a legislator. “Many of the legislators cannot effectively hold government accountable if they don’t use the information provided by NGOs. We don’t need to rediscover the wheel, Kayec is already working on the issue of SMEs and have gained experience on that front. NANGOF has been working on the question of poverty. So a number of NGOs have been working on a number of issues that we can interrelate and use that information to efficiently make our work easier so we represent our citizens with scientific information.”
Venaani also revealed that he plans to engage teachers’ unions on the education system and the labour federation on the labour crisis in the country.
The director of the Legal Assistance Centre, Toni Hancox, thanked the DTA for engaging them, saying they welcome views from all political parties. She also concured with Venaani that there is a need for NGOs to lobby more effectively on burning issues affecting all Namibians.
“We should look at our expertise and offer assistance. It’s about working together. Often we have been called opposition. We don’t see it that way, we are partners,” she said.