Windhoek – Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba yesterday predicted that Namibia’s struggle for economic freedom would be as bitter and long as the national liberation struggle, which took 30 years.
Mbumba made this remark in a speech read on his behalf by Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Alpheus! Naruseb, at the International Workers Day commemoration held at Khorixas yesterday.
This year’s commemoration was held under the theme “Namibian Workers and Employers Unite for Economic Upliftment”.
Namibia faces her sternest test yet, with increasing demands by citizens – especially those whose communities were disadvantaged on a racial basis by apartheid and German colonialism – for greater access to the country’s national resources.
Namibia emerged from colonial rule with a skewed distribution of agricultural land and high levels of poverty, and while poverty has greatly declined, access to land remains largely the same.
The issue of land has consequently birthed another emotive issue, housing, which remains a pipe dream for particularly the youth and young professionals.
The second national land conference slated for October this year is hoped to will put the final nail in the coffin of these issues.
Another issue of concern is the dominance of Namibia’s key sectors – such as mining and fishing – by foreigners and Namibians from previously advantaged backgrounds.
Calls for nationalisation of select industries have yielded little results, but Mbumba yesterday predicted that the economic struggle, while long and bitter, would one day be won hands down.
“Just as many did not live to see the day of our political freedom, many of our compatriots too may not experience economic freedom in their lifetime, but their children and grandchildren will see the day, based on the sacrifices which their parents and grandparents would have made,” he said.
Mbumba said the march towards economic freedom only started in 1990, and is currently 28 years old; whereas the entrenched poverty, inequality, mental slavery, ignorance, tribal and racial indoctrination and all the associated socio-economic evils pervasive among Namibians go back to the 19th century.
Similarly, he said, as government had previously united all people in all communities – the groups of formerly oppressed people such as the churches, youths, workers, political parties and sympathetic continental and international friends, who had all struggled towards the common goal of Namibia’s independence, also now need a similar united front today to steer the country towards economic freedom.
“We Namibians must accept that our money is a product of our sweat, energy, intelligence, skills and knowledge. Robbing, stealing and using all other illicit means is not the solution,” he said.
He said corruption is a serious problem that adds undue costs to social services wherever and whittles away the welfare of the people.
Therefore, Mbumba said that as President Hage Geingob has time and again emphasised, the government has taken decisive action against perceived cases of corruption such as the cancellation of the Hosea Kutako airport tender, passing of the new Public Procurement Act in 2016, and the Whistle-Blowers Protection and Witness Protection Acts in September 2017, and instituted a host of legal and administrative corruption-preventative measures, among others. “But post-independence corruption is symptomatic of a people who have been economically denied their birthright through pre-independence corruption which is the colonial grand theft of the land, cattle and minerals of our people, and the subsequent legal whitewash which accorded these stolen goods private property status,” he said.
He said this historic corruption is what has today caused the deep-rooted poverty, the scarcity of goods such as housing, classrooms, hospitals, industries, skills inadequacy, landlessness and many other socio-economic ills presently prevalent in the society.
“To address these deep-seated structural problems, we as Namibians have collectively agreed to the rationale of starting the second phase of the struggle for economic emancipation. As a result, we should not be sidetracked by emotional issues away from the core issue of economic freedom for all Namibians,” he said.
Mbumba also used the opportunity to urge all workers to join President Geingob’s invitation to a national clean-up campaign on May 25 to restore Windhoek and all Namibian cities and towns’ status of being the cleanest places in Africa.