The Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) has named the reintroduction of Namibia’s botched decentralisation policy as one of the items topping its national agenda, as the party prepares to take its allocated two seats in the Parliament next year.
This move, according to the party’s national organiser and likely parliamentarian, Kalimbo Iipumbu, is due to government’s negligence in serving the needs of many Namibians who are living in localities away from Windhoek – the hub of the central government. Iipumbu maintained that this is in line with the party’s main political goal, which includes the redressing of socioeconomic inequalities that are prevailing within the Namibian society.
“We are going to push for laws that speak to the reintroduction of the decentralisation process. It is uncalled for that everything is run from Windhoek. It is high time that the regional councils either take charge or are given a share of the power, to bring services closer to their constituents,” Iipumbu said.
According to Iipumbu, who is the second in command at NEFF, many falsehoods are being fed to the citizenry, particularly those living in towns, about government bringing developmental support to the rural masses. However, once on the ground, one is met with a grim picture of absolute poverty. Few of those support services make it to where the people need it.
“People in Windhoek, for example, read about drought relief food being offered to folks living in the extreme rural areas. But what they do not know is that the monthly portions that are distributed do not match the sizes of these families. And, the amount given does not last for more than a week,” Iipumbu stressed.
NEFF secured two seats in parliament after logging 13,580 votes, which translates into 1.7 percent of the total votes cast at the just-ended National Assembly Elections. The party fielded a successful presidential candidate, Epaphras Mukwiilongo.
Dr Hoze Riruako, a political analyst and social commentator referred to decentralisation as one of the government’s failed projects. According to Riruako, the decentralisation process crumbled as a result of political parties’ battle for regional control. He maintained that government’s initial stance on decentralisation as a viable developmental vehicle changed when the ruling party realised that giving powers to regions that were not under its control would strengthen the influence of that opposition party on the constituents in those regions – as such making it difficult for Swapo to claim those particular regions.
“A case in point is the Kunene region which used to be the stronghold of the United Democratic Front (UDF),” Riruako said that the aforementioned situation led to decentralisation becoming a back-and-forth affair.
“Decentralization can now be referred to as one of government’s failed ventures,” Riruako said.
He acknowledged the positions stated by NEFF. If properly implemented, he said, decentralisation would result in ensuring accountability and professionalism, as well as the timely delivery of quality service to constituents living in the regions.
“It is high time that government widens the net and bring development to those localities, create jobs and keep people in the regions. People leave the regions when there are no opportunities to keep them there. Then, they are blamed for putting a strain on developmental efforts in urban centres,” he said.
He, however, argued that with the introduction of decentralisation, fiscal centralisation – were all monies accrue to central government – should be reversed to enable money to flow at regional government level with the shifting of some responsibilities for expenditures and revenues to these lower levels of government.
“If this was already the case, regions in Namibia that produce natural resources would have been affluent. Instead, residents of these regions remain poor because all monies are ferried to Windhoek and sometimes abroad,” Riruako said.
He made an example of towns like Omuthiya, Ondangwa, Oshakati and Ongwediva was development are visible as a formula that government can replicate across the country.
“If the government can adopt the same approach and identify points in all fourteen regions were development and decentralisation can happen, Namibia will be better off,” Riruako said.
Namibia, guided by the Decentralisation Enabling Act, 2000 (Act 33 of 2000) toyed with the idea of implementing a decentralisation process to take government closer to the people.
“Only the ministries of basic education, agriculture (to a certain extent) and transport made commendable attempts at decentralisation. The same goes for the ministries of justice and home affairs,” Riruako said.