Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula says it would be unfair to exclude the “black elite” from a proposed requirement that new businesses allocate 25 percent of shareholding to the previously disadvantaged, as white and foreign business owners would be required to do.
He believes this is because there are black business moguls who have made a lot of money since independence, and they should share their riches with other black Namibians.
Speaking as ‘Citizen Angula’ he made the suggestion on NBC’s National Radio show ‘The Ninth Hour’, during a debate on the proposed New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF).
The proposed framework has divided the nation over a provision that all new white-owned businesses must avail 25 percent equity to formerly racially disadvantaged Namibians.
He was joined in the debate by the chairperson of the Law Reform Development Commission (LRDC) Yvonne Dausab and Tim Parkhouse, who is the secretary general of the Namibian Employers’ Federation (NEF), which aired yesterday morning.
“I won’t mention their names but there are some black people who made a fortune…. and it is not fair on white people alone to give up 25 percent of their businesses,” said Angula.
Nahas stressed there is a need for the NEEEF, which was crafted during his tenure as prime minister, to be revised to better define ‘previously disadvantaged’ as the societal and economic climate has changed.
“Things have changed, because [for example] when you look at me now, I can say I am disadvantaged by my age. There is a need to relook the framework. There needs to be new formulas to the framework, as time has passed.”
Angula did not mince words when he said there are many pillars to NEEEF but there seems only to be a strong emphasis and interest on the issue of equity.
“There is a pillar dealing with the promotion of people to acquire management skills but the focus is only [on the one pillar].”
According to Angula, acquiring equity in businesses will not empower Namibians immediately unless it is fishing quotas which can be leased to foreign companies, and this will lead to a few becoming rich overnight.
“There are shares on the stock exchange from the First National Banks and Bank Windhoeks of this world, as well as others; how many Namibians are buying these shares which are already available?”
“Let us look at the empowerment programme as a whole and not only on equity…. I do not want black people to been seen as free riders. We must encourage black people to do things for themselves.”
Parkhouse indicated that the terminology ‘previously disadvantaged’ is vital and its clear definition will set the stage.
“At what stage can you say someone is no longer disadvantaged? There needs to be a sunset clause to this,” explained Parkhouse.
“There is an impression being created out there that poor people after buying shares will get returns on that money immediately.”
Parkhouse asked: “For someone who is in Okahandja Park, do you think they will want to use their money to invest in shares which will only have returns in two to three years, or would they rather buy food or other things they need immediately?”
Parkhouse added that it does not make sense for people to invest their time and expertise in setting up a business only to give up 25 percent of it to someone who was not there when the business was started.
Just like Angula, he suggested that focus should rather be directed to the skills and human resource development pillars.
Dausab of the LRDC which is at the forefront of consultations on NEEEF, said it was never suggested that black rich people would not be subjected to provisions of NEEEF.
“The idea is to have broad-based economic empowerment and there was never an intention to exclude the so-called rich black [business people],” Dausab said.
She also said that after comprehensive consultations the LRDC compiled a report in which they suggested a review of some provisions of NEEEF, including the equity clause.