WINDHOEK – The National Council (NC) has distanced itself from reports last week suggesting some of its Members of Parliament (MPs)are against government’s social grants and the Food Bank programme.
During the 2018/19 national budget, government allocated N$3.4 billion to the Ministry of Poverty Eradication & Social Welfare, of which most MPs during their debate on the ministry’s vote felt that food distribution was not the answer to poverty eradication, and that social grants were too many and a drain on coffers.
The NBC news posted on its Facebook page that NC proposed Namibia should rid of social grants as they make people lazy and this created a dependency syndrome from grant recipients.
It also posted NC parliamentarians feel the current grants are too numerous and rather too expensive for the nation to afford.
Against this, the NBC asked its followers that they would like to hear their views on this and possible solution. This attracted nearly 500 comments with many respondents reacting against the post.
These criticisms prompted the NC Vice-Chairperson Bernard Sibalatani on Thursday to urgently call a press conference where he clarified that in no terms has the NC MPs during their debate on this vote, stated they are against the grants that are being facilitated by the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.
He said the NC supports the initiative and all programs that are being implemented to ensure poverty is eradicated in the country.
“The National Council MPs would therefore like to put on record that the reaction to the media report is misrepresented as the news report was not in context, considering what was said before and after the fact as well as in what context it was said. For instance, NBC posted on their Facebook page that MPs want the social grants scrapped which is totally different from the audiovisual clip they aired on TV containing soundbites,” Sibalatani reacted.
Sibalatani said, firstly, the NC would like to categorically state that it takes the issue of poverty and Namibians who live in destitute conditions very seriously and considers it something that everyone should all work towards eliminating.
He said the sentiment is that there are too many players in the system leaving loopholes for duplication, overlapping and double benefits.
Some examples he cited include old age grants and disability grants, place of safety allowance, foster care grants, orphan and vulnerable children grants and the child maintenance grant for children with disabilities as well as veterans grants and veterans projects.
All these are run by different ministries.
Sibalatani said it is therefore proposed all social grants resort in one ministry under a professional institution like Social Security Commission, which can have a database to avoid duplications and overlapping of benefits.
“The mandate of the NC is and can never be to rubber stamp and approve without proper assessment and review legislation in Namibia. We are servants of the people and the voice of the voiceless. When we make contributions in the House, we do so from a regional point of view as elected leaders representing the regions,” he remarked.
He said the House acknowledge and applaud the establishment of the Ministry of Poverty Eradication, however, where constructive criticism allows, “we must be able to air these concerns freely in the spirit of One Namibia One Nation.”
He said MPs proposed for the harmonisation and sustainability of the grants in the long run.
Equally, they want the ministry to start addressing the root causes of poverty like skills development, food security, health and employment creation, if poverty is to be eradicated.
They also criticised that there are some households getting more than N$10 000 per month and some getting only N$250 or nothing in social grants which to them indicates income disparity. They suggested people should be taught to work for themselves instead of making them dependents of government social grants.