Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) President McHenry Venaani has labelled critics of his party’s ambitious manifesto for the November Presidential and National Assembly elections as non-thinkers.
This comes after critics said pledges by PDM were unattainable after Venaani promised that his party would build three desalination plants.
The PDM also promised to give every citizen who lives in informal settlements a plot as a part of its 'One Namibian, One Plot' policy and reduce the country’s unemployment rate from 28 percent to below 11 percent, among other grand promises.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer after the launch of his party’s 48-page election manifesto in the capital on Wednesday, the 42-year-old Venaani said those criticising his party’s election promises were not visionaries.
“It was a dream to go to the moon and Americans went to the moon. It is a dream to create Namibian owned solar panels, and it can become a reality. Any dream can be visualised,” Venaani said.
He said the millions that the government is already spending on buying resettlement farms can be used to buy urban plots to address the country’s housing challenge.
The SWAPO-led government has spent billions since independence on Namibia’s Land Reform and Resettlement Programme which has been criticised for its inability to undo past colonial wrongs and provide real economic empowerment to beneficiaries.
A total of three million hectares have been acquired through the programme since 1990 with 5,352 beneficiaries.
According to the Draft Revised National Resettlement Policy, 2018 – 2027, only 2.2 percent of the estimated 243,000 Namibians in need of land have benefited even though over 62.81 percent of the targeted land has been acquired for resettlement.
“So it’s just how you deploy the money. Those that are saying that [it cannot be done] are not thinkers, and I am a thinker and our party is thinking,” Venaani said.
Asked how his party would fund its grandiose plans, Venaani said the billions of dollars spent annually on bailing out state-owned enterprises can be redirected to programmes that can improve the quality of life for Namibians.
“We need to cut where the country does not need to go. We have already spent N$17 billion on Air Namibia. But, if you find a strategic partner for the airline you will have N$2.5 billion to address the housing [challenge],” he said.
He added that innovative thinking will also be needed to do more with less.
“With the same budget of over N$400 million [allocated] to the ministry [of education] to build schools, I can use precast [materials] to build triple the number of schools. And, I can do it much faster, cheaper and easier.”
Venaani said he plans to build a stronger Namibia with a stronger economy, stronger communities, a cleaner environment and more modern infrastructure.
“My priority is to build a stronger, more productive and diverse economy by lowering taxes. PDM will provide a leaner and efficient government. There will be a more productive business sector that will deliver more jobs, higher wages and better service provision for the citizens of our country.”
The PDM leader said that with a modernised economy and the right policies Namibians can have competitive manufacturing industries and a dynamic service sector. Citizens will benefit from a growing knowledge economy, modernised agricultural and mining sectors that will add value to resources before they are exported.
As part of the PDM’s key policy interventions, Venaani said his party shall have zero-tolerance on corruption. As a result, the anti-graft agency, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the public watchdog, the Office of the Ombudsman, will be empowered so that they have more bite.
The two institutions have had their fair share of criticism since their establishment. Critics label them irrelevant and ineffective.
Venaani told the party faithful that there has never been a better time to break SWAPO's two-thirds majority in the National Assembly largely because of the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
"This year is a very interesting year politically," he said. "It is the year that opposition parties have the better chance of breaking SWAPO's two-thirds majority in Parliament after the ruling party mismanaged the economy and run down the country.”
He told the Windhoek Observer that SWAPO supporters were crossing the floor en masse.
“The country is shaking already. If you are very honest, you [would agree with me that] traditional SWAPO voters are already shifting to the PDM. It’s already happening. There is a new mood in the country. People are changing because they have realised that this system is no longer working,” the opposition leader said.
He promised the electorate that during his first 100 days in office he will achieve what SWAPO has failed to do in 29 years.
“If you are an informal settlement dweller over the age of 21 earning less than N$4,500 and you can prove that you are a Namibian, we are going to give you a plot for free.
“We will roll out a massive low-cost housing programme to ensure that by the time the nation completes 36 years of its independence, every family will have a house of its own.”
He further promised to rigorously pursue value addition of goods and commodities to double the country’s economic output in various industries, especially mining.
“We shall invest in renewable energy and develop a made in Namibia solar panel and will allow and encourage Namibians to produce energy and sell it to the grid to double our energy capacity.”
Venaani also promised to build clinics in all the country’s 121 constituencies by converting freight containers to workable model clinics as well as build at least three water desalination plants that would be used to pump water into the regions to stimulate agriculture and job creation.
“It is insanity to do things the same way time and again and to expect a different result. Our hopes and aspirations will not be achieved if we constantly repeat the same mistakes. After 29 years of our country’s independence, the majority of our people are still wallowing in poverty.” Asked his views on the threat by the public broadcaster nbc to cut its election coverage because of adequate financial support from the shareholder, Venaani alleged that this was a SWAPO strategy to maintain its hegemony in local politics.
“That is a strategy. The ruling party would want to have an nbc that is not covering the election and an ECN that is not informing the people so that we have voter apathy. They are banking on fewer people going to the polls so that they win hands down. They are not going to have it this time,” he declared.