Namibian Politics to the Point – January 2017 - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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Namibian Politics to the Point – January 2017

Avatar of inke inke - 01. February 2017 -

German Ambassador Christian Schlaga with Elvis Shiweda. (Photo: German Embassy, Windhoek)

The period from mid-December to mid-January in Namibia is the time for a summer retreat, and the political life mainly picked up after that. President Hage Geingob set the tone for 2017 in his New Year message.

“Our single-minded resolution as Government is to re-dedicate ourselves to the full implementation of our goals and objectives, during 2017. This was therefore, ‘The Year of Rededication’ noted Geingob in his New Year address. “We should therefore all rededicate ourselves to continue with the vital work of building a united, inclusive and prosperous Namibian House, where no one feels left out”.

Despite tough fiscal challenges, the government would stick to its earlier promise and increase the social grant for senior citizens by N$100 to N$1,200 monthly by June, Geingob assured senior citizens. About 160,000 pensioners in Namibia receive a social pension, which costs the government some N$175 million monthly. Namibian citizens and foreigners with a permanent residence permit are entitled to the monthly government social pension once they reach the age of sixty.

Nama and Herero lawsuit

On 6 January, a New York law firm lodged a lawsuit in a US court on behalf of the Nama- and Herero-speaking communities. They sought a court order from a US district court in New York, to be officially recognised as lawful representatives of their communities. They also demand to be included in any negotiations currently underway between the governments of Namibia and Germany. Negotiations for reparations officially began in 2016 to bring to a closure the atrocities of the past, during 1904-1908 while Namibia was under German colonial rule. 

Land reform topical again

In early January President Geingob announced that the second national land conference will be held in September this year. This appears to be too far off for opposition parties. The political parties APP, SWANU and DTA publicly called on the government to hold the conference earlier and to table the new Land Bill in Parliament until after that conference. This call was echoed by the Ovaherero Traditional Authority and non-governmental organisations. A new group has formed in southern Namibia, calling themselves ‘Kharas Progressive Landless Namibians’, demanding the same. Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma however, publicly stated on 25 January that he would reintroduce the revised Bill in Parliament, before the land conference. He tabled the Bill in November 2016, but withdrew it two weeks later. 

No higher ambitions 

Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila stated that she has no ambitions to lead the ruling Swapo Party. In a wide-ranging interview with the local weekly newspaper Confidénte published on 19 January, the Prime Minister declared she had no higher ambitions in that regard.

On the question if she had “any aspirations to lead the Swapo party as the 2017 congress approaches”, she replied: “I do not have any such ambitions. I focus myself on the current tasks assigned to me to support the efforts of our Government and our party and its leaders to take our country to the envisioned development level.”

SWAPO will hold its congress in December to elect new leadership. 

International affairs

Special envoys from several central African countries arrived in Namibia early in the month seeking support from the government for their candidates, vying positions as commissioners in various departments of the African Union. Among others, envoys came from Kenya, Uganda, Senegal and Chad. Elections of the commissioners and the chairperson of the AU Commission were scheduled for 31 January with results expected the next day.

Namibia also sent a candidate for election as a member of the AU Advisory Board on Corruption. Paulus Noa, Director of Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Commission, hopes to be elected. 

President Hage Geingob attended the 28th ordinary summit of the Africa Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the end of January. While there, he announced that Namibia would voluntarily join the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). This is an evaluation process which member states of the African Union can allow to be undertaken by the APRM Secretariat. The voluntary nature of the APRM allows member states to openly and realistically evaluate and monitor developmental progress in a friendly peer-to-peer atmosphere. Geingob explained that Namibia supported the APRM since its inception. However, during that time, Namibia and Botswana were considered worldwide, as good examples of democracy in Africa. Both countries therefore decided to abstain from joining the APRM as they did not want to be regarded as a point of reference to be used against fellow African countries.

The Namibian government has officially declared its support for the winner of the presidential elections in Gambia. Adama Barrow won and President Yahyah Jammeh at first acknowledged defeat, but changed his mind a few days later. A political impasse developed and west-African states grouped under ECOWAS negotiated with him. Jammeh finally conceded and flew into exile on 20 January. Exactly that day, Namibia’s government made an announcement: “Namibia congratulates Mr Adama Barrow on his inauguration and henceforth ceases to recognise the legitimacy of Mr Jammeh”, Namibia’s Ministry of International Relations announced. By month-end Barrow could finally take up his duties as democratically elected president.

The German government invited a Namibian diplomat in the Ministry of International Relations Elvis Shiweda, to participate in the 41st training course for International Diplomats of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. The training started on 25 January and will continue until 3 March. Shiweda, who also speaks German, is Deputy Director for Asia in the Ministry. 

Buddy Bear arrives

Berlin derives its name from the word ‘bear’ which once roamed the surrounding forests of Germany’s capital. The bear is part of Berlin’s coat of arms. Huge white plastic ‘relatives’ of the Berlin bear are now sent into the world to be painted. One ‘Buddy Bear’ arrived in Namibia in January. Its open arms symbolise a spirit of friendship and optimism. Berlin and Windhoek are twining partners since a joining  agreement was signed in 2000. Visual artists in Namibia can submit a colourful design for painting the “raw” Buddy Bear sculpture. The best design will be used to paint the sculpture. 

Brigitte Weidlich

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