FOLLOWING President Hage Geingob’s 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA), there appears to be some concerns amongst some media houses on the current status of the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF).
In particular, some media reports have created the impression that the draft law is creating division amongst black and white business owners, and that the proposed 25 percent ownership transfer will be without compensation. The Bill is still in a draft form and will be resubmitted to Cabinet, following recent consultations and the suggestions made by various stakeholders, and therefore this impression is wholly inaccurate and misleading.
It is regrettable that in flagrant disregard of basic reporting and media standards, none of the authors, reporters and/or editors of the print and electronic media have sought comment or an update on the current status of the Bill. This is particularly unfortunate, given that it dilutes the noble objectives of the Bill and also misinterprets the call for unity and support for how the draft law can be improved, to serve the Namibian people collectively.
It is a fact that Namibia was subjected to systemic colonialism and apartheid rule that deliberately disadvantaged sectors of our society economically, socially and educationally. This has led to a gross income inequality that still continues to create uneasiness among all citizens, 27 years after independence.
In a nutshell: There remains anxiety about:
•The continuing income disparities;
•The skewed ownership of productive assets;
•The low level of participation in business by previously disadvantaged persons;
•The lack of socio-economic transformation in traditional and communal communities;
•The high level of youth unemployment;
•The continuing racial imbalance in the management and control of private sector enterprises;
•The continued economic exclusion of, particularly, racially disadvantaged women, youth and persons with disabilities; and
•The slow development of rural areas, which cannot be left to chance.
President Hage G. Geingob has made the point on numerous occasions that the NEEEF is designed to partially respond to these national problems, which every Namibian citizen and all friends of Namibia, with a conscience, should support and embrace.
The continuing divisive tone and deliberate misinformation, to scare off investors and pit Namibians against each other, should not be tolerated by any peace-loving Namibian. Government has consulted widely on NEEEF, and members of the public and representatives of various stakeholder groups, have had their say, which will be reflected in the revised draft document.
Since the public-wide consultations, an inter-ministerial committee consisting of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC), the Office of the Labour Commissioner, the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, the Office of the President and the National Planning Commission (NPC) considered the public proposals. Following that process, the LRDC was tasked to reproduce a fresh draft and recommendations to Prime Minister, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
Among the highlights of the issues that were considered for possible revision are:
1.The 25 percent compulsory divestment;
2.The importance of skills development;
3.The composition of the council;
4.The definition of previously disadvantaged persons; and
5.The concerns raised about the definition and scope of the private sector enterprise.
These matters have all been revisited, in the light of the provisions of the Namibian Constitution, and to address some of the further concerns that were raised during the public consultations.
The next step involves the prime minister resubmitting the new proposals to Cabinet for principle approval during May 2017. Once Cabinet approves the proposals, a revised version of the draft will be subjected to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation and possibly for further targeted stakeholder consultations, before it will be submitted to the legislative drafters. Once the drafters are satisfied with the text of the draft law, it will be submitted to Attorney-General, Sacky Shanghala, and then to Parliament for consideration.
Given that this Bill is in most parts very technical, including the provisions dealing with the development of the empowerment standards and the accompanying scorecard, it will require many more processes and discussions for the refinement of the implementation modalities. The road to NEEEF becoming law will therefore depend on how fast we can get through these processes, but the public can be assured, given the nature of income inequalities that the Bill is intended to address, that government sees this Bill as a priority. We, however, wish to ensure that it is done right at the first attempt. We therefore call on all media houses to be positive ambassadors of the process, and the intentions of the Bill. It does not help anyone or the country, when there is deliberate negative hype and misinformation created around the NEEEF. We can discuss all matters without scaremongering or the deliberate distortion of facts.
Finally, we still ask: What is the alternative to the NEEEF? It certainly can’t be the maintenance and entrenching of the status quo. The LRDC stands ready to provide any further details on the draft bill to all Namibians and friends of Namibia of good conscience, or to consider other alternatives being proposed.
*The above statement was released by State House Press Secretary, Albertus Aochamub, this week
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