Albeit with very good intentions, the current Namibia Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) is unconstitutional, historically badly timed, highly dangerous and could further potentially reverse the hard won policy on national reconciliation of the Namibian government.
The reality on the ground is that the current generation on both sides of the political and economic divide unfortunately still don’t see eye to eye, hence the strong resistance on NEEEF.
NEEEF in its current form is – in my humble and honest opinion – being pitched to the wrong generation at the wrong time in our history and by the wrong generation. With that said, government still has exceptional economic power at its disposal to directly empower the previously disadvantaged if it so sincerely desires – without the introduction of an initiative, such as NEEEF.
It is simply a matter of choice for government, which unfortunately has not fully exercised hence the introduction of initiatives such as NEEEF.
The following historic fundamentals are very important to take into consideration so as to understand why NEEEF is unconstitutional, badly timed and highly dangerous:
1) So much brutality and cruelty transpired during our dark national past to such an extent that there is an ingrained or inbuilt historic hatred that still exists, leading to a mistrust of intent between beneficiaries of the previous dispensation and the current indigenous population;
2) The previous dispensation – as a result of the war for national liberation – lost the political power it once fully had and now feels there is an intrusion through NEEEF by those that are in power to take a quarter of what they constitutionally own and control. This they will resist with all available means;
3) That Namibia, after successfully emerging from over 200 years of brutal colonisation, needs to tread carefully with its intended economic empowerment policies that directly affect the economic survival base of the same dispensation that was previously in control. The wounds of the past are still fresh to all concerned minds and hearts that it will unfortunately take a very long time for them to heal. The policy of national reconciliation is sadly not yet fully embraced by all parties, resulting in society a divided on economic lines, whereby the minority significantly controls the economic base of the country, whilst the majority languish in poverty and destitution;
4) The sad reality that complicates things further is that one can forgive, but never ever forget and that is just how things will unfortunately be for Namibia. Please note that whites don’t attend or see the significance of certain political events in Namibia;
5) That the policy of national reconciliation is simply a political peace buffer between the two set of groups that is constitutionally protecting the willing-seller, willing-buyer policy, as well as the right to property (inclusive of businesses). Now, in the context of our brutal history, who in his or her right mind will simply transfer economic power without a struggle?
Taking into account the abovementioned fundamentals, Namibia is still technically at war with itself and by itself, such that the second phase of the struggle needs to be strategically and successfully waged, but by a new generation of patriotic warriors, whose aim is for both whites and blacks to truly live side by side harmoniously, economically and politically.
However, this will take a very long time to achieve.
Therefore, government’s good intentions to strategically maintain future peace and harmony in the land of the brave through the direct economic empowerment and redistribution of wealth through the smart business ownership (75/25 percent for previously advantaged and previously disadvantaged, respectively) of successful white-owned companies will in the above context face strong resistance from the previously advantaged business community.
One notable example that is still, however, a significant challenge for government and that affects our daily lives is the very sensitive issue of land redistribution. It is common sense that if you do not have land you don’t have anything to hold onto and failing to even solve this critical issue for the benefit of the masses will lead to subsequent failures in other attempts to redress society’s other problems, which are initricately linked.
Who has the land? It is the same people that the political power was taken away from.
It is important to note that land is a critical factor of production, which forms part and parcel as collateral of any successful business. To give away 25 percent of that can indirectly equate to giving away that portion to the previously disadvantaged. That’s not going to happen so easily.
Hence, I think that our leaders are not reading the times and situation correctly and are failing to get the message that historically and politically the beneficiaries of the previous dispensation have still not made peace with the fact that things have changed and, as such, there is no way they will accept that what they can currently and fully control (economic power) now has to suddenly be shared by the same people that they once colonised.
In conclusion, the timing and introduction of NEEEF under the above context is extremely premature and highly dangerous. To unravel more than 200 years of white political and economic domination without due regard to the dynamics of our history is rather shortsighted, to say the least.
It is going to realistically take a very long period – at least 30 to 50 or more years – to reach an equilibrium, whereby whites and blacks can truly sit at the same table and work as equal citizens for the greater benefit of the country.
* Pendapala Hangala is a socio-economic commentator and entrepreneur. email@example.com