The New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) is pro-black but not pro-poor. It favours the previously disadvantaged instead of the presently disadvantaged. We need to understand that we cannot be limited to seeing our national problems through the spectrum of race. Rather, our reality is of an economic order that is divided between the haves and have-nots. It is the upliftment of the have-nots – in terms of access to opportunities, decent housing, and quality education, access to capital and land – that should receive prominence in the drafting of our laws. The colour line is but a deviation from the reality and seeks to promote capricious arbitrary constructs of race. Truth be told, in Namibia, the racial divide is not as prominent as the socio-economic divide and this should be the focus of any changes that will still be made to the NEEEF draft bill. The proposed ownership restrictions for private sector enterprises as per PART 6 of NEEEF draft bill seeks to impose 25 percent ownership by racially disadvantaged persons. However, it should be noted that it is only ‘currently advantaged previously disadvantaged persons, who will be in a position to acquire stakes in these companies defeating one of the objectives of the bill, which is addressing inequality across all spheres of society. The danger lies in cultivating a culture of window dressing (rent-a-darkie) to fulfil this requirement. The law also tacitly suggests that because of the historical injustice of apartheid, even if we were to give black people education, skills training and capital, due to their inherent blackness, it is still impossible for them to partake on an equal footing with whites in business. This is a lie that has been proven time and again, seeing that a lot of black people have actually done well for themselves in an independent Namibia. In instances where government tenders and the exploitation of natural resources are concerned, 25 percent ownership or even more should be a necessary requirement. However, it should accrue to the communities where the exploitation of these natural resources is taking place and to the employees of these companies through employee shareholding where government tenders are concerned. That is the only way that monetary wealth will trickle down to the members of society, who are truly in need of empowerment. Another bone of contention arises in the establishment of an Empowerment Advisory Council, which will be made up of Cabinet ministers responsible for economic sectors such as economic planning, etc. When one studies the envisaged functions of this council juxtaposed with the functions of the envisaged Economic Empowerment Commission you will notice duplication and overlapping of responsibilities. Seeing that ministers are merely political appointees and not necessarily experts in the sciences, it would be advisable to scrap the council and have the commission report directly to the appointing authority. This would lighten the bureaucracy and further empower the commission to carry out its mandate unhindered. NEEEF is a necessary tool to tackle inequalities in the distribution of wealth in Namibia, however, in its current format, it is riddled with deficiencies that need to be addressed. The bill should not be passed unless it can articulate and expound on how those who are truly in need of empowerment such as the poorly paid employees on the lowest strata of the economic food chain and the communities from which natural resources are extracted will be empowered. It should also make provision for the scientific measuring on a continuous basis of its successful implementation or failure. The head of an Economic Empowerment Commission should be equipped with the necessary skills and know-how to monitor and report through tracking on a daily basis whether the objective of the bill is being realised from the moment it is enacted and suggest amendments to the bill to rectify anything that may have been overlooked in its drafting. I support Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment policies and laws as a way of addressing inequalities that have come about because of historical injustices. However, the draft NEEEF Bill I cannot support because it does not address the plight of those who are most in need of empowerment.
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