Namibia accomplished many achievements in 30 years - News - Gondwana Collection

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Namibia accomplished many achievements in 30 years

Avatar of inke inke - 06. March 2020 - Discover Namibia

Founding President Sam Nujoma is sworn in by Chief Justice Hans Berker on 21 March 1990. Photo: National Archives

Brigitte Weidlich

Namibia celebrates thirty years of independence on 21 March 2020 and looks back on three decades of democracy, peace, stability and economic development. After the First World War the former German colony (1884-1915) became a British mandated territory in 1920 and remained under South African administration until 1 April 1989, the start of a transitional year under UN supervision. In 1990, at midnight on March 20 to March 21, the national flag of independent Namibia, now a sovereign state, was hoisted at a big ceremony in a sports stadium in Windhoek.

Intact administration was taken over

In contrast to many countries where the struggle for freedom largely destroyed infrastructure and civil administration, both were intact in Namibia. Military clashes had mostly taken place in southern Angola and north-central Namibia, where a night curfew had prevailed. The first free and democratic elections in the country's history were held in early November 1989. On 9 February1990, the constituent assembly adopted the constitution. Negotiations had taken barely nine weeks.

The constitution leads the way

Namibia's internationally acclaimed constitution lays down the guidelines for governance and the economic system. It provides for a bicameral parliament and the procedure for appointing cabinet ministers. Article 98 stipulates that "Namibia's economy is based on a mixed economy".

Authorities previously known as departments have become ministries – such as the Ministry of Finance, Mining and Fisheries. The first ministers and their deputies were appointed by founding President Sam Nujoma. Hage Geingob - as Namibia's first prime minister, appointed the permanent secretaries.

In 2015, Geingob became the third democratically elected president. His second and last term in office starts on 21 March 2020.

Transformation and integration

Back In 1990, Namibia’s new government under President Sam Nujoma kept on most of the officials from the era of the South African administration. They were free to either return to South Africa or join Namibia's newly created civil service. Similar offers were made to former soldiers and freedom fighters: they were invited to join the newly established Namibia Defence Force. Whoever had fought on the South African side until the beginning of 1989 - military service of two years was mandatory for male school leavers; the alternative was six years of police service, or the risk of imprisonment - now had the option to become a professional soldier in the NDF. The same was true for former freedom fighters of PLAN (Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia).

Under the policy of national reconciliation in independent Namibia, efforts were made to promote integration according to the motto "One Namibia, one nation".

SWAPO (South West African Peoples Organization), which in the general elections in November 1989 narrowly missed the two-thirds majority, became the ruling party. The former freedom movement now had government responsibility and was bound by the Namibian constitution with stipulations on concepts such as democracy, freedom of expression, rule of law, right of ownership and an independent judiciary.

For historical reasons, Namibian law is essentially based on the earlier South African law which in turn is based Roman-Dutch law and still valid in South Africa today.

Changes for cities and regions

In 1992, the first municipal and regional elections were held. Shortly after independence, Namibia was divided into 13 regions. Each of them is represented by two of its council members in the National Council in Windhoek, the second chamber of parliament. At that time, it had 26 seats. The National Council meets several times a year and revises the laws passed by the National Assembly.

A new law on municipal administration was introduced in 1992, making municipalities the third tier of government. Town councillors are elected according to party lists for a period of five years. The appointment of the chief executive officer of each municipality has to be individually approved by the respective Minister for Urban and Rural Development.

Namibia’s constitution was amendment in 2014 to split the Kavango Region into Kavango East and West. The number of constituencies was increased to 121. The National Council now has 42 members, and the number of seats in the National Assembly was raised from 72 to 104. Namibia's population growth was given as the main reason: within 30 years, the population has almost doubled from just fewer than 1.2 million to 2.3 million inhabitants.

Source: Ministry of Information and Communication Technology

The economy depends heavily on exports

Namibia's main economic sectors are mining (13% of GDP), agriculture (around 4%), tourism (3%) and fisheries (3%). Fishing boats from South Africa and other countries had drastically reduced Namibia's fish stocks by1990. After independence, the newly created Ministry of Fisheries drew up strict guidelines for the sustainable use of fish stocks and strictly monitors their implementation. At the same time, 'Namibianisation' was introduced, which is the participation of Namibian citizens from previously disadvantaged population groups in companies and the economy at large.

Namibia has invested heavily in its infrastructure, for example by building over 4,000 km of tarred trunk roads, as well as upgrading airports, extending the rail network to the Angolan border (Tsumeb-Ondangwa-Oshikango) and expanding the ports of Lüderitzbucht and Walvis Bay. The port authority NamPort put the new container island into operation in Walvis Bay in 2019, an investment of almost N$ 4 billion.

The country’s own power supply is in the meantime geared towards the increased use solar and wind power supply.

Namibia has a well-developed banking sector with modern digital services, thanks to the well-developed mobile network. Namibia's main exports are diamonds, uranium ore and copper, fish, meat and table grapes. The EU, Norway, China, Hong Kong and the USA are the most important export markets.

Namibia's economy has barely grown since 2016, only by 0.3 percent in 2018. In 2019, growth was negative. Low raw material prices and relatively high public debt (around 43% of GDP) contribute to this.

Social welfare for citizens

According to official figures, the government has reduced the poverty rate from around 28 percent to 17.4 percent of the population. The rural exodus has increased, however: 55.2 percent of the total population now lives in urban areas. Around 900,000 people live in makeshift structures (corrugated tin huts).

More than 90 percent of all school age children attend primary school, and over 90% of the population can read and write. Instruction at state schools is generally free of charge, and so are the learning materials.

The government pays a monthly basic pension to citizens and permanent foreign residents from the age of 60. The pension was introduced during apartheid, but only for whites. Since 1990, everyone is entitled to the state pension ofN$1,300 as of February 2020. Medical treatment in state hospitals is free of charge for patients without health insurance, which applies to around 80 percent of the population.

All companies and businesses registered in the commercial register have to make a monthly social security contribution to the Social Security Commission (SSC). The amount is shared 50:50 by employees and employers. Based on this, employees can claim unemployment benefits in the event of being incapacity due to accidents at work. Women are also entitled to several weeks of maternity leave during which they are paid about two thirds of their basic salary.

A statutory health insurance and a statutory pension fund are planned for years but have not yet been implemented. However, the government is currently considering a basic income grant.

A land reform was introduced in 1995 but is progressing slowly. The government buys farms for the settlement of previously disadvantaged citizens, most of whom have no agricultural training.

“Namibia has various challenges to overcome, but a lot has been achieved in the past 30 years. We can be proud of that”, said President Hage Geingob in February at a reception at the Presidential Office. 

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