Does NEEEF belong to government or not?
We were surprised after reading President Hage Geingob’s comments published in a South African newspaper (see p. 12) where he spoke about the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF).
The president is quoted as saying, “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...”
And yet, the president was recorded at the outset of the NEEEF national debate making statements in support of the legislation as a way of redressing past barriers against participation in the economy by the majority of the population, and redistributing wealth immovably planted within the white community.
We are certain that ‘clarifications’ will emerge from State House as soon as feasible (given that all of those who can and would respond on this issue are in the US for three more weeks.) But, until that time, we are compelled to state our concerns raised by this seeming contradiction.
Who does NEEEF belong to, if not the government which proposed it in the first place? NEEEF was written, drafted, edited and introduced by the government, championed by the Cabinet, and defended by those charged with shepherding its passage.
We submit that the concepts within NEEEF are not solely Geingob’s as they have been debated in various forms wearing various acronyms (BEE, BBEE, TESEF) over the last decade.
And yet, our Head of State, has now made comments that drive a stake into the heart of government’s own NEEEF draft language.
Though the article was published this week, we are unclear as to when this interview was recorded by the Daily Maverick reporter.
If these comments came after the recent Fitch outlook revision, where NEEEF was cited as one of the reasons for declining confidence in the ability of Namibia to pay its bills, that sends a message about the devastating impact of the financial downgrade of Namibia’s economy as seen by the world financial community.
If the comments were made before the outlook revision, we wonder why NEEEF was not altered earlier.
Consideration of NEEEF in its current form hurts our ailing economy as it has created an uncertain environment for investors.
In these days of severely decreased development aid, a tumbling South African Rand, depressed commodity prices worldwide, and a government with nearly empty coffers, re-investment of capital internally and Foreign Direct Investment are the fluid IVs required to revive the dehydrated Namibian patient.
There were public meetings held around the country discussing the legislation and a plethora of civil organizations, employers’ representative groups and sector umbrella organizations were screaming bloody murder against it.
Media houses (including this one) wrote editorials questioning some of the aspects of the legislation as written. That said, GRN was, nevertheless, ostensibly pushing for NEEEF. And now, a dirge is being played at the funeral of NEEEF, if the President’s seemingly contradictory comments are the final word.
We repeat our position that equitable beneficiation from Namibian wealth and natural resources must happen with deliberate speed.
We would applaud an end to tenderprenuers and nouveau riche middlemen who create/produce nothing with their hands and yet scramble to dip their cup into everyone else’s water trough.
And with the same vehemence, we challenge those in the previously advantaged group and their heirs who selfishly hold on to multiple viable farms, prime city real estate, and lucrative businesses (most obtained during the white supremacist times of apartheid and/or colonialism).
It hurts the country as this exclusive group of people employ their own (in management roles) and keep information/skills exclusive to themselves (note the travesty of the white engineer refusing to mentor a black engineering trainee).
Times are changing fast and the majority of the population is demanding more of everything, and government is compelled to respond. The previously advantaged community must look hard at itself as one of the main reasons that these alphabet soups of draft empowerment legislation will continue in some form and eventually be passed into law.
While there is no way to legislate the change of hearts and minds, laws that restrict what people can do, must suffice. Allowing people to put Namibia first and address generational economic inequity and empowerment issues voluntarily is obviously not working.
But, if the 25 percent level proposed in the NEEEF draft language is currently too high, then GRN should say that and reduce the percentage.
If the principle of forcing people to give away any portion of their private businesses is to be deleted in full, then say that and let’s get an alternative plan in place.
So what is the government position on NEEEF?