How do we ensure that previously disadvantaged people that are now wealthy do not benefit again and again while the majority languish in poverty? This was the main question during the consultation meeting called to scrutinise the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) draft Bill.
On Tuesday //Karas Regional Governor Lucia Basson and several regional leaders and inhabitants of the region gathered at the WK Rover Hall at Keetmanshoop to familiarise themselves with the draft Bill and make their inputs.
NEEEF’s primary aim is to bring about socio-economic transformation and to enhance equity, social justice and empowerment of the previously disadvantaged majority by integrating them into the economic mainstream.
But listening to Law Reform and Development Commission chairperson Yvonne Dausab as she unpacked the content of NEEEF, people were very concerned that wealthy black elites might find loopholes in the Bill and exploit it to enrich themselves even more.
They fear that if the law is not properly formulated, the same elites, who have already benefited from similar government interventions, would benefit even more.
Residents are also concerned that the previously disadvantaged people that the Bill aims to empower will not be reached, citing access to finance as a major obstacle for the poor to start or join any business venture and this might lead to established black entrepreneurs benefiting further at the expense of the poor.
“How do the most disadvantaged people – who don’t have the means to buy shares – benefit from this if they can’t afford it?” asked Lüderitz resident Ndignana Mukapuli.
Oranjemund Constituency Councillor Lazarus Nangolo said for the Bill to benefit the intended target group, the minimum 25 percent that must belong to previously disadvantaged people should be spread amongst several people and not given to any individual, so that more people benefit.
He also called for the ownership of these companies to be regionalised or localised to include shareholders from the area they operate in, saying this would ensure locals are economically empowered.
“If a company is from Keetmanshoop, at least some shares must be given to a person from that specific constituency, so that people from that area benefit too,” he argued.
Nicolaas Links, the regional manager of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, echoed the same sentiments, saying the Bill has no purpose if it does not benefit people in the region at grassroots level. He said if the Bill does not level the playing field, in view of the vast resources of the //Karas Region, it is a futile exercise.
“If people from the region are not benefiting then what’s the point of the Bill,” he asked. He also called for relevant agencies to be put in place to ensure success in the implementation of the proposed law, saying: “If there are no implementation and monitoring agencies then this Bill will just be another that will gather dust.”
Some residents also expressed frustration, saying they feel intentionally left out, indicating that oftentimes the people of //Karas are consulted, but when the laws are passed they do not benefit anyone in the region.
“If other people from other regions can benefit, why can’t we also benefit from these good bills?” asked Keetmanshoop Rural Constituency Councillor Elias! Kharuxab.
The LRDC is currently conducting broad-based regional consultative workshops on the implications of the NEEEF Bill. The LRDC was tasked with drafting of the Bill, whose stated purpose is to correct the economic inequalities that stem from past discriminatory laws and practices.