Never promise a starving man bread

13 December 2019
Author   Jackie Wilson Asheeke
              My grandmomma taught me a basic wisdom about life that has served me well.  “Never promise a starving man food.  Just serve the meal and let his surprise at being fed be his balm.”  This point rose in my mind immediately after reading promises made by President Hage Geingob, via Acting Minister Kawana that all who lost their work due to the Fishrot corruption will get their jobs back. 
As a social commentator, I look at the pattern of things that happen; I watch.  And what I see is not encouraging about the president’s promise being delivered during his entire final term in office. 
That promise, perhaps well-intended or likely done to divert street riots, was disingenuous.  Those retrenched workers will not get their jobs back. 
There could be thousands of unemployed (either directly or indirectly) as a result of the greed of Esau, Shanghala and the boys (allegedly).  Where are the fishing industry jobs to re-employ these people?  Short Answer:  nowhere.
Which unemployed fishermen get the Christmas gift of imaginary jobs?  The 650+ from Namsov or the 4,000 jobs lost from a combination of Etosha Fishing, United Fishing, and Namasov?  What about the hundreds of SMEs and employees of tangential companies providing services to Namasov who also lost their jobs?
Kawana’s ‘directive’ from cabinet is “to make sure that all those that lost their jobs get their jobs back as soon as possible.”  The backlash will come when this promise is not fulfilled.  Are we prepared for that?
The president has made a PR move.  He made Kawana the fall guy to sell the impossible.  The acting fishing minister’s sacrifice is to ‘stall’ to the demonstrators using whatever works.  Geingob has promised starving men a full meal tonight, when at best, he can only offer a brötchen and that won’t be served for years.
The logistics around implementation of a re-employment gambit are massive.  To get such a project moving, we all know that Namibia usually solicits foreign consultants to study the situation and report recommendations. Then the report (which no one will read) will be submitted to Minister Kawana who has to submit it to Cabinet.  Then, after all of that, the Minister of Finance will tell everyone that there is no money available to finance any of it.  All of that will take a year or more.
Kawana, who is questionable in his knowledge of the fishing industry, said that the government will increase quotas of other fishing companies that would allow them to hire these retrenched workers.  This is a pipe dream, not a plan.
Government has no authority whatsoever to force a private company to hire a specific pool of workers.  Even with an extended quota, that company will decide if, how many or which specific individual it hires.  They will crunch the numbers and see what is in THEIR best corporate interest and that is what they will do. 
And, where will these mythical ‘excess’ unused fishing quotas come from?  Is another company being stripped of a part of their quota (causing them to fire workers)? 
Meanwhile, someone has to get the retrenched workers identified and verified as beneficiaries of the promise. The criteria of those qualifying for these supposed jobs has to be advertised widely. 
Mark my words, with 26,000 showing up for 120 job openings in another place in Namibia, there will be tens of thousands who line up for hours or days to get their names on a job list (whether they fit the criteria or not).  Is there staff available to even begin to handle all of this?
Unions only have capacity to scream for pay increases.  Most of them are facing major financial difficulties and have no capacity to assist government in this situation. 
Reading about Kawana’s statement, I am reminded of those staged and concise Town Hall sessions where all kinds of promises were made. 
Let us not forget that the ‘promise’ of jobs was given to the so-called ‘struggle kids’ so many years ago.  Some are still waiting after close to 10 years.
Need we be reminded of the lines of people told to apply for plots at the municipality here in Windhoek due to that promise?  I recall there were over 16,000 applications for plots received after people waited in long lines.  Have those plots been distributed as promised.
I can imagine that security officials likely told the president that angry, young black men (mostly) in the streets, could foreshadow a damaging riot.  So, I ‘get it’ that Geingob was advised that ‘something’ had to be done fast.  But with all those million dollar advisors, High Level Panels, cabinet members and party top officials, another empty promise was the option selected? 
Why not skip the promise and make a pledge?  When/if the Fishrot community is convicted in 2-3 years, all of the wealth they stole will be put into a trust.  When the relevant beneficiaries are tallied, and the stolen amounts refunded, properties sold and the money given to the court, the amount will be divided up equally.  All relevant beneficiaries will get a share in cash. 
In the short term, look at which programs that already exist can be minimally diverted, specifically to those who have been retrenched.
Kawana should have only said what could happen not what people think should happen. 
Unless the Good Lord Jesus is somewhere in State House prepared to do His thing with the loaves and fishes, a sermon on Mount Geingob full of promises that cannot be kept, won’t cut it.  When those people hit the streets again, after they realize they’ve been ‘had’, who will have credibility to manage the problem? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; - Happy holidays to all!


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

Contact Us

Windhoek Observer House
c/o John Meinert & Rossini Street
Windhoek West
Tel: +264 61 411 800
Fax: +264 61 226 098