The colonialists and also a host of multi-national companies, especially in the mining and fishing sectors, were exploiting Namibia’s resources with impunity and with little benefit accruing to the local population.
That was the situation which the liberation movement was going to radically overhaul come independence. Reflecting on the situation after 20 years, it is clear that things have not changed much, at least for the majority. The Namibian regime did not only retain the ‘political economy of theft’ but added another dimension based on official corruption/looting – the GIPF saga for example.
In an aptly titled article ‘Namibia Pty Ltd’ (The Namibian, July 21, 2006), Henning Melber wrote that ‘decolonisation has been turned into private business’. He goes on to say that the transfer of political power was accompanied by the acceptance of the existing socio-economic structures. I fully concur with this analysis.
I would also add that the problem in this country and elsewhere in Africa is that many of the elites in our countries lack that sense of nationalistic mindset and as a result have a very limited sense of ownership of their countries, thus seeing no need to develop them. They instead behave like ‘political mercenaries’ and thus see ‘their’ countries as cash cows for self-enrichment.
For them anything that is not bolted to the floor is a good candidate for theft. In the case of Namibia the litany of either theft or corruption cases is now getting out of hand and the authority apparently has no interest to arrest the situation. After all some of those who are supposed to do so are either directly or indirectly, through their proxies, the beneficiaries in many of the corrupt schemes and deals to loot the country’s resources. Some of these schemes take the form of facilitation fees, commissions or kick-backs sometimes running into millions, while others are simply theft. For example, how does one explain the N$100 million that was apparently ‘invested’ in Botswana which has disappeared without trace while the leaders are quiet and the masses are not questioning this? Then you have the ‘loan’ given to former President Laurent Kabila of the DRC amounting to approximately N$50 million, the N$30 million at the Social Security Commission, N$3 million to buy arms from a bogus arms dealer, 42 brand new laptops at the ECN gone without any trace, missing diamonds running into millions of dollars at a polishing factory in Okahandja; not to mention the thousands of dollars that usually go missing at our magistrates courts, government ministries, parastatals, including also Unam which is supposed to be a beacon of good governance?
One doesn’t want to be anecdotal about these issues but people urgently need answers about many of these cases. The more than N$660 million at the GIPF which we are made to understand has now been written off as a bad debt, but at the same there is apparently a forensic audit being carried out, which is yet another drain on tax-payers money as the external auditors have to be paid. And believe you me, this so-called investigation will not go beyond the ‘report’ stage.
There are other aspects in the corruption network in this country. The Chinese, for example, didn’t just choose to come to Namibia as their next destination; they were brought here by the Namibian regime for a purpose. They are always first in line to receive most of the multi-million government tenders and I can’t imagine the kind of deals that are struck during some of these transactions. In the building industry they have now virtually replaced Namibians. And it doesn’t end there; local corrupt officials are also selling communal land to the Chinese to rake in a quick buck.
The same goes on in the fishing, tourism and the mining sectors where the elite are given quotas, licenses and EPLs which they then just sell to foreigners who end up controlling and thereby owning the country natural resources. Thus the field for all sorts of corrupt activities is quite open and is widening further. The problem is that there are simply too many bribe-takers in the country. So in this sea of corruption, I don’t see how we are going to arrest this growing national endemic within the current political set-up with its weak political institutions, including the justice system and also lack of political will on the part of leadership despite all the talk especially from President Pohamba who when he became President said “there will be zero tolerance for waste and corruption in public life.”
The coming into being of the ACC in 2006 raised high expectations that past scandals and corruption would be investigated and resolved and the first steps taken in preventing future corruption. This was not to be as we now realise retrospectively. The ACC is yet to net any big fish in the country’s corruption underworld network.
So this is an uphill battle and would need the masses to become involved and to hold to account those who make them poor by diverting public money from the public good to private ends.