A Momentous Year Ahead

Namibia is bracing herself for a critical 12 months ahead, with 2015 promising to be an eventful year for the nation in many respects.

The first three months of the year will particularly be of great interest from a governance perspective, with major shakeups expected in different tiers of government.

Governing the people

From a new president, new regional governors to local government elections slated for this year, 2015 promises fireworks – and hope – for the citizenry.

Prime Minister Hage Geingob is expected to be sworn in as president on March 21, after his record-breaking electoral triumph in November last year. He got 87 percent of the vote, as the nation spoke in almost absolute unison of its desire to have Geingob as the next president.

One of Geingob’s early responsibilities as president will be to appoint regional governors of Khomas, Omusati, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and Karas regions, whose incumbents are all poised for parliament.

Laura McLeod-Katjirua (Khomas), Sophia Shaningwa (Omusati), Usko Nghaamwa (Ohangwena), Penda yaNdakolo (Oshikoto) and Bernadus Swartbooi (Karas) have all secured favourable positions on the Swapo parliamentary list and are certain to become lawmakers from March.

But Geingob’s real test will be when he appoints his new Cabinet, to be announced on the day of his inauguration as head of state. The nation will particularly be interested in knowing who will fill the newly created position of vice-president, prime minister’s position and key ministerial portfolios such as foreign affairs, finance, education, health as well as trade and industry.

This year could witness the establishment of the long-mooted ministry of State-owned enterprises. It is hoped the ministry, if created, would help out many limping parastatals who continue to rely on the state for a lifeline.

Secretary to Cabinet, Frans Kapofi, has already said his goodbyes to colleagues in the executive secretariat, as he heads to parliament. Also heading to parliament is National Planning Commission (NPC) director-general, Tom Alweendo, but he could still keep his current position at the commission.

One of Alweendo’s predecessors at the NPC, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, kept her director-general’s job while serving as a Swapo lawmaker in the National Assembly.

Realistically though, Alweendo, with his wealth of experience and skills, is expected to vacate his current position and be deployed elsewhere in the top echelons of government.

Key reforms

While Swapo maintains that all its leaders in government are to follow the existing development programme of the party, this year could see reforms in key sectors such as education where thousands of Grade 10 and Grade 12 learners continue to struggle for academic progress.

More than 16 000 (46 percent) learners who sat for their Grade 10 last year have failed to progress to Grade 11 – a result that speaks volumes about the need for reforms in the country’s education sector.

The ruling party Swapo, in its latest election manifesto, flirted with the idea of free tertiary education for selected academic fields and this year could provide time for serious consideration of this promise.

Another key reform impatiently awaiting the new government is that of land and housing. The just-ended year recorded some unpleasant distractions regarding land in particular, with the country’s young masses feeling they have been priced out of the possibility to acquire land.

Land grabs have become regular occurrence especially in Windhoek, as the capital struggles to deal with the mass arrival of new residents who are on the hunt for jobs and, generally, a better life.

The cousin crisis to land is housing. Government’s mass housing scheme only started paying its first dividends towards the end of last year when the first houses constructed under this ambitious scheme were handed to government.

Overall, there is a feeling that key policy reforms are needed to arrest the escalating housing prices and to regulate commercial banks and other financiers who have made it their core business to rake in huge funds from their financing of houses to desperate homeseekers.

Struggle kids

It is expected that within the first two months of this year, the outcome of the investigation into the killing of ‘struggle kid’ Frieda Ndatipo would be known.

Ombudsman John Walters told New Era last month that his team has completed its investigation into the killing of Ndatipo and that the findings have been handed to the Attorney General for consideration.

The incident, which occurred in August last year, highlighted the crisis surrounding children born outside the country during the liberation struggle, who are demanding jobs and other amenities from government.

With the group remaining firmly in its trenches of protests even in the new year, their issue is likely to persist this year. The killing of Ndatipo and the hurling of insults to Swapo secretary-general Nangolo Mbumba by an angry mob of struggle kids towards the end of 2014 are but some of the indications that this issue can simply not be wished away without decisive action on the stakeholders involved.

Affirmative Repositioning

The emergence towards the end of last year of a group calling itself Affirmative Repositioning has hinted at the possibility that this campaign, led by Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) member, Job Amupanda, might remain a thorn in the side for government this year.

The 14 000 land applications submitted to the City of Windhoek two months ago highlights the plight of landless Namibians, but with the city promising to consider all applications, there is a glimpse of hope among the applicants.

However, Amupanda’s plan to expand the same campaign to fishing quotas, while the struggle for land has not yet achieved its goals could scupper both the trust in his original campaign and the possibility of achieving its intended goals.

The frequent mention of members of the police and army as among those who have limited access to land and housing, has also been interpreted by some as a form of instigation of the country’s armed forces against the State. This could be perceived as treason – a serious offence in Namibia.

Source : New Era