Wealthy black Namibians could be targeted for redistribution of national resources, President Hage Geingob hinted strongly last week in London.
Geingob said the perception that his government was only targeting whites – who inherently benefited from the apartheid system – for redistribution was way off the mark.
Those who have benefited from the national economy, whether white or black, would be required to cede some of their wealth to help their compatriots who are struggling to make ends meet.
In its current form, the proposed New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) only states that white-owned businesses set up after this policy is adopted would be required to cede 25 percent of their equities to those previously discriminated on the basis of their skin colour.
Black Namibians suffered the full brunt of the apartheid system, which perpetuated white supremacy over other races in the country.
Faced with tough questions from investors and analysts in London last week, with some questioning whether the Namibian government was reversing racism by empowering blacks only, Geingob said his government’s main target now is wealthy Namibians – whether khaki, black or white.
He was unapologetic in his observation that white Namibians inadvertently benefited from a system that placed them above other races, but said it would be unfair to target them alone.
“We have nothing against whites. But we can’t have some people too rich at the expense of others, while benefiting from national resources. All wealthy people must share – whether black or white,” he said on Friday during a public lecture held at the Chatham House, an international affairs think tank based in London.
“That’s why we removed the term ‘black’ from the name of the new framework.”
Former Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) member of parliament Heikko Lucks, speaking to New Era recently, said government should focus on narrowing disparities between the poor and rich, and not blacks and whites.
Months after assuming office, President Geingob suggested the introduction of solidarity wealth tax, an idea that drew fire, especially from the country’s working class. This was because it was somewhat suggested that people earning salaries above a defined threshold would be subjected to this tax.
Geingob, however, explained later that the solidarity wealth tax will only be directed at the affluent members of society, the ones with high income, and not be applicable to everyone.
“We all know that due to legacy and structural issues, significant income is still concentrated in the hands of a few,” the President told business people who attended the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) presidential business dinner in November last year.
Consultations over NEEEF are still underway and the outcome would be scrutinised by Cabinet before Parliament votes on the Bill.
Fitch, an international rating agency, cited NEEEF as one of the reasons it downgraded Namibia’s economic outlook from stable to negative, but Geingob – even during his visit to the USA in September – indicated that government would not retreat in its pursuit of the contentious empowerment policy.