Geingob flip-flops on land
President Hage Geingob has brewed a shocker saying his administration will not expropriate land without compensation, a U-turn from his earlier pronouncement in April last year when he announced that his government was toying with the idea to address the increased demand for land in the country.
“Land is a very emotive issue in Namibia and we are trying to tackle it with great care. It is true that land was stolen by white people about 100 years ago. If a child is born on that stolen land, with Namibian blood, that child is as Namibian as I am. So we cannot grab the land, because it was stolen by the father, when he died a long time ago,” the president told the Voice of America television show, Straight Talk Africa on Wednesday.
In a shocking contradiction to his earlier statements, the president said expropriation of land would be in violation of the country’s laws despite having said earlier that the Constitution provided for the action.
“We are doing what we can and it is difficult to do. Land is being bought. We are buying land to settle those that need it; it’s a slow process and some are saying that process is not working, the willing buyer, willing seller, ‘we must nationalise it’, and so on. We are not going to grab land from those who own it, because the Constitution says once you own something, then it’s yours.”
In another turn of events, President Geingob rubbished on-going plans by his administration to enact the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF), which will require that 25 percent ownership of white-owned businesses is transferred to previously disadvantaged Namibians, a process currently assigned to Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s office.
“Already we know that it is not going to happen. We are not here to work against one group. We need to learn to hold hands. We don’t want to send the wrong signals to investors. Rather, we need fair play,” he told the Daily Maverick.
Political analyst Mbumba Kamwanya said that there is a problem if there is inconsistency at government level.
“Why is the president telling the country different things, but when he travels abroad he makes a U-turn.
“We should not tell the world different things, than what is happening in the country,” he said.
Kamwanya, however, said that if the president is realising that some of the policies passed or envisaged are not working, then it is good.
“Has he realised that he was wrong, because there were a lot of criticisms behind some of the policies, or is he trying to please the West? It is good then that he is realising his mistakes,” Kamwanya said.
President Geingob’s comments come as he also expressed shock by a recent High Court ruling that nullified his administration’s decision to cancel the N$7 billion airport tender, which had initially been awarded to Chinese company, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group.
The Head of State said he remains convinced that the awarding process for the multi-billion dollar upgrade and expansion of the Hosea Kutako International Airport was tainted, and thus his administration’s decision to intervene.
“The point is, tender rules are very clear. This is money that is going to come from Treasury, and so you must follow the tender rules, which were not followed.
“I thought I was starting on a bang, because people always say there are no consequences in government, and you can do this and that, but then the courts say government was wrong by stopping it,” he told Straight Talk Africa.
Geingob ordered the cancellation of the tender in December, after irregularities were raised in the awarding process, a position that saw government being dragged to court by the Chinese company.
He said his government will appeal the decision, handed down by Judge Shafimana Ueitele last Friday.
“So I think we may appeal that. But for the courts to say that, courts are independent in Namibia and we accept the court decision and we will consider an appeal,” the president said, setting the stage for a protracted legal battle.
Geingob said the move to cancel the contract was part of his administration’s efforts to fight corruption in the country, which has also seen him warning against name-dropping by some businessmen seeking government contracts.
“I wanted everyone to join us to fight against corruption and that was a significant effort made that would have set the stage,” Geingob said.
On the country’s position regarding the International Criminal Court (ICC), Geingob maintained in the Straight Talk Africa interview that Namibia will be moving ahead with its plans to withdraw, like other African countries.
“Are we saying forever that African countries must continue to go to the International Criminal Court? Why can’t we develop our own institutions, which are credible and independent, and if they are working, why must we go to the ICC?” he said.
“If we have institutions that are credible, why not have it in Africa. I would have said a lot if America and other countries were signatories to the ICC. I would want to ask why they are not? They are the trailblazers and led the way to democracy, but why are they not signatories to the ICC, yet they want Africans to go there.”