…Geingob inherited economic problems
By Confidente Reporter
VETERAN politician and Swapo party Secretary for Information, Helmut Angula says the country’s economy has been affected by long term policies which current President Hage Geingob administration inherited from his predecessors.
In an exclusive interview with Confidente Tuesday, Angula blamed gratuities paid to war veterans, the elderly among others as another source of the country’s economic woes.
The former cabinet minister and National Planning Commission director also told Confidente that should he be nominated to contest in the Swapo vice presidency race he would gladly take up the challenge as he is a disciplined and loyal cadre who will do what he is instructed.
Angula also tore into politics of gossip mongering and character assassination in Swapo.
Below is the question and answer session with the veteran politician.
Confidente: Are you going to contest if nominated?
HA: The tradition in Swapo is that the politburo sets the agenda for congress and proposes it to the central committee. The two bodies separately pronounce themselves in terms of candidates to stand and limited to three for Politburo and when the central committee meets it can endorse those or nominate further for consideration. The elimination process starts again until they arrive at three candidates. Now the usual thing is that, in Swapo tradition we don’t ask people to announce their candidature, it is not Swapo tradition to say I’m going to stand tomorrow… The Swapo tradition is that a specific organ or structure of the party pronounces itself, invites someone, encourages somebody and discusses it to say look we’d like to have so and so stand as candidate. That is the issue because currently it is assumed you can just come from anywhere and stand as a candidate.
Now whether it is a good or a bad tradition, it served us very well. Because in the third world in which we are and in Africa in particular, professions are limited and many people look to political positions as job security, kind of. Therefore it creates a kind of disharmony when you liberally open it to whoever. The consequences are that lack of debates and dialogue cause people to go for each other’s throats because debates on economic and social issues get lost and people readily rush to character assassination to eliminate each other by way of blackmail. So in liberal free press situation like us, when something is said about a candidate, it is said. Even if it is retracted, it is already gone and people don’t have a chance or resources to go to everybody to explain that it is lie but whatever comes out first becomes a reality.
In Swapo we try to avoid such situations because of competition for bread. Unfortunately the society we live in … we come from a background of serious underdevelopment, so literacy is low and people depend more on hearsay than reading or research. The consequence is that people in public do not ask candidates to explain themselves on issues of economics. You don’t ask a candidate what they will do if they become chief ruler of poaching for instance, industrialisation, corruption so candidates tend to generalise. That debate in society is still developing and cannot go unguided. We reserve to say we give actual dates to say this is happening on this day so whoever says they are standing are on their own but not within the framework. It is not for me to say I am standing.
Confidente: If it so happens you are nominated, would you accept?
HA: Look in Swapo again we have what you call cadre discipline, when we bow to be leaders we also bow to take up any responsibility given. So it is not for me to choose that I want this or I don’t want this. It is for us to be delegated.
As long as I remain a loyal party member of my party, I will always accept what is directed to me. If I become weak health wise or age wise, I will say I can’t manage. But now I’m managing. Most of what I do is not paid work, I just do it. So the answer is simple, I cannot nominate myself.
Confidente: The country’s economic problems are being blamed on President Geingob especially; do you believe he is to blame?
HA: There are many factors; some of them are within our control, some beyond our control and some induced by a global crisis. The fall of commodity prices, we are simply not consumers of uranium or diamonds. If prices fall, it means returns will fall and impact on us. The drop in oil prices is beyond our control. Our economy is so small. We depend on our neighbours South and North. Angola was one big investor, bringing in that saw the booming of Oshikango and Rundu and all border towns. Suddenly Angola’s oil dried up, they can’t even come here to buy. Our taps are closed. Those towns are now dry. Our young people employed there have disappeared. That was income our Government would get in taxes and services. We can’t control that but we based our budget on those incomes. Then came the economic crisis in South Africa again it means our economic activities have been reduced.
We wanted to answer to the cry of our people, particularly the old age and orphans so we dished out these benefits, a child that doesn’t have one parent is already on payroll, people who said they fed combatant veterans they are now on the payroll. These people doubled up. Where do we think the money is coming from? Then came infrastructure, we wanted to be the best in Africa, if five villagers said they wanted a road we built it, if a community said they felt discriminated we built a road. Suddenly we don’t have budgets to finish those roads.
Money will come but the system is delayed. The effect is multiple, I can’t say it is unfair on the President, if you are elected you are the one accused but I would say it is not concrete to blame it on the current administration because major projects , be it railroad infrastructure, airports it was not their budget they found it. Even in my time 10 years ago those plans were in place. The economy was growing so those plans were being made according to the focus of economic growth. But we need to readjust, the question is whether the current Government is correctly readjusting, and readjusting does not only mean cut the budget but reducing the consumption budget, to be creative enough to substitute for lost income, and reducing the consumption budget and increase the production budget.
But here we think we can increase by manipulating here and there and taxing many people; we have to have a designed programme to substitute lost income and produce as many finished goods at home so we don’t continue to send money outside the country. To reduce and control imports. Most of our money is going to buy luxury goods, we are happy but we are buying them with Namibian dollar but the state is paying outside with US dollars which are not coming in because diamonds, uranium and copper prices dropped. We are also not catching as much fish as we should. Yet we are happy to say we have nice cars. One day those cars will stand on the streets because there will be no money to pay spare parts with. That’s where Government should take control of this situation, cut imports and improve and encourage more imports of productive goods, agricultural machinery, fertilizers, expand subsidies to small farmers, multiply small businesses by giving subsidies to say here is an advance to start your own firm because that money will circulate. Instead of saying increase tax here, it will mean nothing. Expand economic base for production to increase production activities. People will be misplaced to blame the economic meltdown on anyone. The economy has been affected by long term policies and spending so much money in consumption and one sided things like infrastructure which is temporary unlike manufacturing because you can have good policies on trade.
The moment the salary of whoever was increased, it is withdrawn from the country’s savings. There was no need to increase salaries if you knew we weren’t going to have more savings outside country. It was a wrong way of doing things. First get the money and increase. Don’t increase just hoping manna will fall. The Swapo government has to bold enough to say that in order to keep the economy going we must cut the salaries. This should be a compromise because there are consequences. We only demanded increases for social benefits and consumption but never demanded increases for subsidies in the agricultural sector or industrial sector for instance.
Confidente: They have been calls by some quarters in Swapo to have leaders elected on tribal grounds. What is your take on this?
HA: That will destroy the essence of democracy because democracy means the will of the largest voter. If that concept is to be acceptable, then we must also accept the fact that it starts with the parties and not to have elections where some parties become minorities or lose completely but to say also allocate seats to small parties. So what will be the essence of having elections? And who must be selected from those who are not selected? For us from the school of discipline, we don’t think it matters who is heading Government in individual capacity but what matters is the policy of the group of the organisation that decided to elect that person to lead them. And this is where the question comes from, when we elect leaders, do we trust them or hope for personal return and not for the good of society? A bad leader can never look after all people but a good leader doesn’t matter from which tribe and will look after every person.
I know in poor countries, in underdeveloped countries where you have people based on rural settings this issue of tribal identification will take a long time to disappear. The panacea to this is industrialisation. If you have a plant taking up 5 000 people, they will not all come from one tribe. It is wrong to say there must be a quota system to say there must be 10 of this tribe. We lack debating issues to select candidates based on what they can do and how we know them historically. Many come to power because they can speak well but if you can’t even build your mother a house, how can you build a nation? It is unfortunate that people resort to this kind of politics, but they will not advance them.
Confidente: They has been talk of tenderpreneurs in Swapo who use their membership to access tenders. What is your take on this?
HA: I think tenderpreneurs these days have self-inflated egos and believe they will be able to appoint and nominate. They can play an important role in national elections where they can give money to run campaigns, to fuel one to run around but within Swapo there is nobody who needs money to campaign, nobody needs a car to go around Swapo branches. I don’t know who they are a threat to. Politics of blackmail and discrediting people but can only work if the media buys into it and make themselves a mouthpiece of those who want to blackmail others, then they might have some room.
Confidente: What is your final word to the public in regards to the current status of the economy?
HA: This is not unique to Namibia. This is a global thing because of poor performance of the global economy. It doesn’t matter whether Hage or Swapo is in power because this influence comes from somewhere. We need to tighten our belts and not be at each other’s throats but come together with ideas to minimise impact of external influence on our economy. For example why don’t we give our people more participation in public sector to feel a part of the economy? There are many state companies and Government doesn’t benefit because it puts more money than it receives. The only people benefiting are the managers. Give ownership to people so that these companies are better controlled.
For instance as a worker of Transnamib, why can’t you be allowed to forfeit your salary increases and rather get shares in Transnamib? Why can’t unions be allowed to have shares in NamWater or Transnamib? This is socialising the national assets. So that the capital is socialised and feel a part of the economy so that when there is profit, everyone gets a share. Managers will also not only be reporting to Government but to the people, because if N$20 million is lost no one will be sent to prison but in a public company someone will be sent to prison. The national railways for instance should belong to the people, let them invest in that company. So in a nutshell tighten your belts, socialise national assets, and diversify industrialisation because this will prevent people from coming to town in mass. Build houses for teachers, doctors and nurses in rural areas so that you have equilibrium services and those in rural areas will not be attracted to towns. This will address long term solutions. So just tighten the belt and things will improve.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015