Namibian Politics to the Point – November 2016
This monthly update touches on important political developments in Namibia.
Early in November the ruling Swapo (South West Africa Peoples’ Organisation) Party ended its second national policy conference. About 600 delegates from party branches of Namibia’s 14 regions attended the five-day event. At the opening ceremony, President Hage Geingob said that Namibia’s government should “incorporate Swapo policies to turn them into Namibian policies. Cabinet is to domesticate Swapo policies,” Geingob added.
Since taking over power from former president Hifikepunye Pohamba in March 2015, Geingob also became Swapo’s acting president a month later as Pohamba retired from active politics. Geingob was elected to the position of Swapo vice-president in 2012.
The policy conference was also attended by Founding President Sam Nujoma and Namibia’s second President Hifikepunye Pohamba. “The fact that three presidents are here and participating is a reflection of our inner party democracy and shows how peaceful Namibia is as a country,” President Geingob emphasised at the closing session. Geingob is acting Swapo president since the retirement of former State President Hifikepunye Pohamba in April 2015.
No details about resolutions were made public. Swapo Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba noted during the closing ceremony on 3 November that several internal policy papers were presented and discussed. Generational transition within the Swapo party structure was also discussed.
Topics like energy and water supply, food security, the housing backlog in Namibia, infrastructure and land also received attention. “The land issue is emotional and must be handled with care – we must address it,” President Geingob said in his closing speech. On the government plans to introduce a National Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF), which is an outflow of a previous Swapo policy decision, Geingob said: “Let us hold hands and move in the same direction to discuss how to address inequality; we will not grab somebody’s property.”
In November 2017 Swapo will hold its ordinary congress, which takes place every 5 years. During the congress, the entire party leadership will be elected: party president, vice-president, secretary general and deputy secretary general (the “Top Four”) as well as members for the central committee.
Defence cooperation with Germany
On 10 November Namibia’s Ministry of Defence and the German Federal Ministry of Defence signed a new extension agreement in Windhoek on German equipment aid to Namibia.
According to the German Embassy in Windhoek, the main objective of the agreement is to train the Namibia Defence Force (NDF) to enhance its peace-keeping capabilities and to implement common strategic goals in defence cooperation “for a peaceful and prosperous Africa”.
Clean financial audit for DTA party
The largest opposition party in Parliament, the DTA of Namibia became the first political party to present audited financial statements to the National Assembly Secretariat. Handing over the statements for the financial year (FY) 2014/15 to the Secretary to the National Assembly in mid-November, DTA Treasurer-General Nico Smit said the party received the government’s call for transparency.
According to Smit, the DTA received N$5.1 million from the government during FY 2014/15 to run its parliamentary office. The new Electoral Act of 2014 stipulates that all political parties represented in Parliament must account for the government funds received. They must draw up financial statements two months after the end of a financial year, which is March. These must be audited and then submitted.
The Secretary of the National Assembly, Lydia Kandetu confirmed that the DTA was indeed the first political party to submit its statements. They will then be tabled in Parliament by the Speaker, Peter Katjavivi.
“Our financial statements for 2015/16 are also done and currently audited,” Smit told reporters.
Eight political parties are represented in the National Assembly after the 2014 parliamentary elections. Since 1997, political parties receive roughly 0.2 percent of total government revenue proportionally according to the amount of seats they have in the House. During the FY 2014/15 this however only came to 0.7%, totalling N$39,3 million. The new Electoral Act formalised the 0.2% and compels parties to submit audited financial reports for those funds. Since March 2015, the National Assembly has 104 seats, compared to 78 seats before.
The National Council, which is the House of Review, was enlarged from 28 to 42 seats. Government provided N$116.8 million to the parties during the Financial Year 2016/17. The lion share, N$96,7 million went to the ruling Swapo Party, which has 77 seats in the National Assembly and 24 in the National Council. The second largest party in Parliament is the DTA of Namibia with 5 seats in the National Assembly and one seat in the National Council. It received N$5,7 million for the FY2015/16.
Germany’s special envoy in Namibia
Another round of negotiations between Germany and Namibia to deal with the colonial atrocities between 1904 and 1908 that took place in Namibia in November. Germany’s Special Envoy Ruprecht Polenz met his Namibian counterpart Zed Ngavirue in Windhoek. Polenz also visited members of the Ovambanderu-speaking communities in rural areas east of Windhoek. He further met a Nama-speaking group. Germany has agreed to render an official apology for the past atrocities and provide reparations in the form of community projects. Some descendants of the affected Nama and Herero groups however demand cash payments, which makes the negotiations complicated.
President Geingob visits France and UK
President Hage Geingob travelled to France and the United Kingdom on 27 November for six days. In Paris, he held talks with French President Francois Hollande. Both governments signed several memoranda of understanding (see our Economic Review). In London, the Namibian president was to meet Queen Elisabeth II and her son, Prince Andrew, apart from addressing business people and investors. The Queen’s grandson, Prince Harry has visited Namibia several times to support the country’s conservation efforts and anti-poaching measures.
Namibia is a member of the Commonwealth, which is headed by Queen Elizabeth II.
Namibia mourns Fidel Castro
The death of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro on 25 November was also mourned in Namibia. President Hage Geingob announced 3 days of national mourning. Geingob briefly deviated from his European trip to attend Castro’s memorial service in Havana. Founding President Sam Nujoma and former President Hifikepunye were also present.
Thousands of Cuban soldiers fought with Angolan and Namibian freedom fighters in Southern Angola against the South African military. The withdrawal of over 50,000 Cuban troops from Angola in 1989 was a key factor in the UN-negotiated deal for Namibia’s independence, which became reality on 21 March 1990. Brigitte Weidlich