We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." - Benjamin Franklin
A recent article in which Gobabis Chief Executive Officer, Ignatius Thudinyane, was quoted complaining that investors must use workers from Gobabis rather than people from ‘other’ regions when undertaking investment, presents a concern.
Let me hasten to say that while I use this distinguished CEO as an example of my point, his sentiments are not unique, or the first time they have been articulated.
After working with many communal conservancies back in my days in the tourism industry, I firmly believe that there must be local beneficiation for any projects built and run in those areas.
Investors in factories, shops and stores, should have an allocation formula for job categories where local people are given preference (not a mandatory quota) in employment decisions.
For example, those scoring 80 points in the job application process are short listed, with 15 points automatically given to those with certificates confirming they were born in that area.
And yet, there is something worrisome in my heart and mind when I hear communities saying that no one should live or work in their areas except people who were born there. In the housing crisis and even on communal conservancies, I constantly heard negative overtones about people ‘from other areas’ buying land or living and working in ‘our’ towns and areas.
This is problematic. The constitution is clear about Namibians having the rights to live and work anywhere in the country. We must not ever consider re-installing any aspect of apartheid or ‘bantustanization’ in any way, shape or form. NO part of this country is ‘reserved’ for one ethnic or racial group.
Municipal land, at the end of the day, is state land. Communal conservancies are on state land. Even traditional land, though administered by tribal leaders and covered under various laws, is state land. That land cannot be alienated or used as collateral. All that occurs on that land, at the end of the day, falls under the constitution of Namibia.
As for the private sector, there are no legal controls that require employment or sales decisions on the basis of race or ethnicity alone. Nor should there be. Local beneficiation should be encouraged with tax deductions, access to bids in the tender process and other instruments, but never mandated.
It should never be forgotten that tax payers’ money from all over Namibia, exports revenues, and development assistance for ALL Namibians, pay the civil servants, build the roads, schools, clinics and provide water, communications and other infrastructure and businesses development needs. How then should the benefits from nationally owned land accrue solely to those few living there, when those living there are not the only people paying the bills?
The bulk of the cost for the needs of the citizens in any community demanding sole beneficiation from ‘their’ land or ‘their’ towns comes from people all over Namibia.
It must be mentioned that many in our rural areas earn below the poverty line and pay no income taxes. Also, many purchase their goods from an informal sector that pays no VAT or other regulatory fees to replenish state coffers.
Towns and villages cannot generate the necessary income to stand alone; their leaders know this and must be careful when making populist speeches to rile up expectations that will never be fulfilled.
This is one Namibia; one nation, or else we devolve into thousands of interests selfishly grabbing power (and fighting one another in the process), money and assets only for themselves. If we go too far down the path that demands that anything built or provided locally must only employ locals, then we go closer to the ‘Mogadishu’ or ‘Kabul’ model with war lords and strong-man-led clans controlling and claiming their little kingdoms in a divided, failed state.
Imagine the areas with diamond, uranium, or gold mines saying that all of their mineral revenues and jobs must only be for those born in their areas? Or all beef or mutton benefits must only go to people born in areas where meat for export is generated. Or karakul profits must only go to the people born in areas where karakul sheep farms are located. Or fishing jobs must only go to places where the catches are landed.
If you support that, then equally, we must then say that only those in areas where there are hospitals, universities, entertainment events and sports can only be used by those born there. No one can use an airport except those born in those areas. No one can travel on a road except those who are from that area. Each area must have its own banks, currency, system of weights and measures, passports, self-defence and police forces and foreign policy. I am being extreme to make my point.
While I believe that special beneficiation according to fair formulas should go to the areas where our natural resources are generated or where there are jobs on a state-funded programme or business enterprise, in a unitary state, one community must never be the sole arbiter of anything that comes from state land.
The state must (and should!) provide for the general welfare of ALL of its people; we must hang together in building a strong Namibia, or separately, we will all go down in impoverished flames.