South African President Jacob Zuma yesterday drew parallels between the struggle for economic prosperity and the fight for independence, saying the former is the tougher task for any government.
He said this at State House where he met President Hage Geingob, who is passionate about his audacious Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), with which he plans to transform the socio-economic conditions of the poor majority in Namibia.
Harambee focuses on a litany of developmental programmes in areas, such as housing, youth employment, service delivery and effective governance. If implemented to the letter, Harambee would make Namibia the most competitive economy in southern Africa, government would be more accountable and ministries highly disciplined in handling taxpayers’ money.
Zuma, who leads Africa’s second largest economy and the world’s 34th largest, told his Namibian counterpart to brace himself for his biggest fight yet, as Geingob rolls out the revolutionary Harambee Plan.
Zuma was in the country yesterday to consult the Geingob administration on the reform of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland. SACU is currently under the chairmanship of South Africa.
Having served as an active member of the African National Congress’ (ANC) armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, and as a political prisoner in the 1960s, Zuma – who has been president of South Africa since 2009 – has experienced in detail the challenges of achieving both economic prosperity and winning the liberation struggle.
“We were there as part and parcel of Swapo during the struggle. We were together. A struggle, which we believe was very tough and difficult. Many people died, so we can’t say it was not difficult. It was,” Zuma said yesterday, on the very day that the ruling Swapo Party turned 56 years old.
“It needed people who were ready to sacrifice everything. But it is equally true that the struggle to change the country into prosperity is even more difficult in its own way. When you say the struggle continues, it is absolutely true. It is a struggle that teaches you new lessons as you go along. How do manage? How you do change the quality of life of the people?” asked the South African president.
Turning his attention specifically to SACU issues, Zuma said South Africa is in the process of visiting all the member states of the customs union. “We started in Botswana yesterday. We are here today. On Thursday we are in Swaziland, and someday thereafter we will be in Lesotho.”
“We thought we should do so, as we are chairing SACU for now, particularly because of the importance of our organisation,” he said.
Zuma said this type of regional engagement is necessary, taking into account the number of meetings that have taken place between members of SACU, as there are discussions that have not yet been brought to a conclusion.
The consultations are a follow-up to the discussions held by the SACU heads of state and government during the inauguration of its new building in Windhoek last year.
The discussions also focused on progress made in implementing the SACU Work Programme, as adopted by the 2011 SACU summit. South African news reports indicate that consultations with Lesotho are continuing to find a suitable date for Zuma’s visit to Maseru.