Consumer Corner – Namibia’s Form of Capitalism Must Be Reined in [column]

NAMIBIA’S form of capitalism has lost its course. Consider these experiences: Recently a family member of mine woke up to the reality of how cold it really is this winter in the capital. At the end of April the Windhoek Municipality came to cut his power supply because of arrears in the family’s water and electricity account. The amount of arrears had accumulated over a period of twelve months as the family did not every time pay the full amount due. After around a year, the family was faced with just under N$3 000 they had to pay before electricity could be re-connected.

A friend in Windhoek recently came to the end of her rental contract of a year and presumed that the contract would automatically be renewed with a possible slight increase from her present N$5 000 per month. Imagine her surprise when the landlord sent her the new contract with the rental agreement now being N$6200 per month. This is an increase of N$1 200 or 25 percent. The friend and her family earn around N$12 000 in total and there is no way that they will be able to afford this sudden increase. The worst part is that the landlord is aware of this, but she already has a future tenant that is willing to pay the proposed N$6 200 per month.

The price of chicken and milk has gone up since the government started protecting these industries as infant industries. This means that imports from outside the country are made more expensive by charging administrative levies on these products from outside and in this way allows the local producer to increase prices as the competitor’s prices are now higher for the end consumer.

These issues bring to fore the realisation that the Namibian form of capitalism has lost its course. Capitalism is the economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private individuals with the specific goal of making profit. Capitalism is also reliant on a political system that agrees with the principle of capitalism and actively encourages the economic aim of individual profit-making.

In a perfect capitalist world, both parties to a transaction determine the prices at which assets, goods or services are exchanged. In Namibia, most of the poor consumers have very little choice, if any, on what is available to buy and at what price. The lack of political action leaves the consumer as a victim in a situation where they have no bargaining power and no protection by the legislature (parliament), the executive (government) or the judiciary.

It is up to consumer activists and the media to bring an end to this never ending road to poverty for the majority of Namibians. The economy and people of this country were ruled by apartheid policies before independence and this was one of the main factors for the people of the country wanting change. Now, twenty years after our independence, the economic systems that are in place still do not reflect the needs of the poor. It is high time that parliamentarians and the state take cognisance of the need to protect consumers through the enactment of a Consumer Charter and relevant consumer protection measures.

Source : New Era