One On One With UPM [interview]

With elections around the corner, New Era journalist Roland Routh had a one-on-one with United People Movement’s National Chairman, Jan van Wyk (JVW), on what his party will bring to the table if elected into the 96-person Parliament.

Your party is seen as a Baster party, why do you think you are perceived as such and what do you make of this political profiling?

“As was previously indicated UPM is not a Baster party. However, our biggest support base is in Rehoboth. Some of the other parties also have their gholds, UDF has Khorixas, Swapo has the north and NUDO has the former Hereroland. UPM has the most supporters in Rehoboth or the Rehoboth Gebiet. Claims that UPM is a Baster party are unfounded. We know that there are some people within the Baster community who wanted that the party should only be for the Basters, but that could not be entertained as our constitution states that the party is open for everyone. These people are, however, not members of the party as we do not need such people in our structures.”

You say you do not want to make any promises to voters, but yet you say that you will re-introduce religious studies at schools, provide quality free education and quality health care. Doesn’t this contradict your statement on promises?

“I would not say that we are not making promises. What we are actually saying is that we will demand. If you are not in power you cannot put policies in place and implement it so from our side we will rather demand on behalf of the electorate. As I have said before, at the moment there is no party that can take over from Swapo so we should just try to improve our representation in parliament and then work it from that side.”

To come back to quality health care and education. How will you finance these ambitious plans of yours?

“Quality education is very important. If one looks at the waste of money, the waste of resources at this stage. If that money is channelled correctly to education and to health then of course there will be funds available. We just heard that China is going to build a naval base in Namibia and we believe that a lot of money from our government coffers will be channelled to that project. Government is hiding this kind of cost. The money is there, it is just the proper channelling of this money to priority areas and making sure that proper account is given for this money. Money is there, this thing about there is no money for example to increase pension is just another lie from the ruling party. A lot of money was just now channelled to the SME Bank and we know of course that this bank will in the long run fail, just like with the (defunct) City Savings and Investment Bank (CSIB). ”

As you know Namibia is a secular State which means that freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution. How are you going to interface all these religions?

“It is not going to be very easy. I think if religious studies become part of the curriculum than it will be much easier. Like in the old days, let’s say one class is going for say for instance History another class will go for Bible studies. That is our idea, to make it part of the curriculum for all religions in the country. If the Christian religion is attended to then the other religions must be attended to at the same time.”

But then you will need extra teachers because you certainly won’t have a Christian teaching a Muslim and vice versa?

“Yes this where the involvement of churches comes in. Their involvement is very critical and I think we must involve the churches in education. If the different churches can take over the role of education during that period they will also make sure that when this child goes through school, that child will not land on the street. Whether it is Pentecostal or Catholic that child will be part of the church at the end of the day. So what we are saying is that we are grooming our children through school with the Bible to make sure that they become part of a well educated Christian society.”

But there you come again with only Christianity, what about the other religions?

“That is the responsibility of course of the church to make sure that a Muslim child or a child of any other religion remains a productive member of his or her community. We know that there are other religions especially nowadays with all these churches, mushrooming, it might be a problem. However, all these churches are affiliated to a certain body and that body should take, not ownership, but should be able to take a certain part of responsibility for religious education in schools.”

“You also say that you will introduce a system of stewardship for effective management at all levels of government. What exactly do you mean by that?”

“What we are saying by that is if you are a committed Christian, I will not for the wrong thing which can include theft, adultery, drunkedness all these things. Now if I am a committed Christian I will make sure at the end of the day I will protect what I have, make sure that the people at the other side see that I live by example. Now if leaders are not prepared to set an example then of course we have a problem. And that is the biggest problem we have in this country with politicians. They just want to have, instead of sacrificing for certain things for example tenders. I would rather go hungry tonight to make sure that my community has something. Instead of going for a tender myself I will aise my community to go for the tender.”

You also say you will demand the provision of land, sanitation, water and affordable standard housing for the low income groups, the poor and the unemployed. How exactly do you plan to realise this. Do you have a framework for the implementation of what seems a highly ambitious plan?

“Yes of course, the provision of land is our biggest problem. We have a plan in place at the party. The idea actually is to take Rehoboth over next year. We will start to implement it there and see how it works over a period of ten years. What we are saying is that within the local authorities we must create a certain fund into which we will put in money on a monthly basis. We are saying is that this fund must cater as far as possible for the delivery of serviced land. We also believe that the charges to service land by consultants is too excessive and if we can move away from using consultants I believe that the service will be much cheaper. Within town councils and in local authorities provisions should be made for our own town planners. Together with the technical manager they should be able to assist the town council or local authority to provide much cheaper serviced land. While giving out tenders to service land is a way of creating jobs I think that is a total wrong idea. If you can use that money within the local authorities to acquire skills and of course equipment to do it yourself you can cut out the consultants. We have the necessary skilled people in the town councils, but we are not making use of them. Instead we waste money on appointing consultants while we are paying someone in our town council who can or must be able to do the work. We believe in doing it within the local authorities and concentrate on the poor people. I can still sell un-serviced land to a businessman and he will be able to service the land himself while a poor person will not be able. So if we can identify the land and say for instance, this land is for this income group and make sure that everything is there, that the land is service and if possible provides accommodation. We also have something in place, I will not call it cheap housing, but building houses. We know that some years back we used clay to build houses. If we bake that clay and build houses with the clay bricks we know it will be much cheaper. In the old dispensation the local authorities used to build houses and rent it out to residents. That is also an option. But, the idea is to go back to our natural resources and make use of those resources and ensure that at the end of the day the low income and the unemployed do have proper accommodation. Proper accommodation will of course contribute to better education. A child who sits in a brick house and feels safe can concentrate on studying. A child trying to study in a shack while it’s raining will not be able to concentrate on his studies and will obviously not bring home the best results. Make sure that every child is protected and has a proper place to live then you will see what will come out of that.”

And are there any case scenarios where land, water and cheaper housing were successfully implemented?

“Not yet. The idea actually was when we looked at the provision of housing that we should start with a pilot project of at least five houses and give these out on a loan to people for a period of time and see whether the project can sustain itself. That was also the idea with the build together project which failed because they did not have the right people, committed people, to make sure that the project succeeds.”

What about these alternative building methods like the Kavango Brick and the Hydrafoam concepts?

“People are calling it alternative housing, but if you look at the prices attached to it, I would not call it alternative housing. The price is almost the same as a NHE house. People are trying to make money out of this alternative housing and I think this is a big problem. We had one guy recently who said he can build a three bedroom house for N$40 000, now that I want to see. But the people should have the opportunity, because at the Rehoboth Town Council I made a proposal that we should give each of these people one plot just to prove themselves, but that was not accepted. They now gave Hydrafoam one plot and we will see how it goes. But if a person tells us that he can do it, but the price is still out of reach of the low income group and unemployed that is not alternative housing.”

Now what about the mass housing project?

“The mass housing project, we all know that it is a political scheme by Swapo. Swapo has failed the nation and they had to come up with something to make sure the people still go to the polls and vote for Swapo. Those houses are so small that a double bed and a wardrobe would not fit into the bedroom.”

The general impression one gets is there hasn’t been any viable alternative to Swapo. What is your take on that assessment?

Well it is true that opposition political parties has for 24 years tried to become the alternative to Swapo and none succeeded. But a younger generation is now coming to the fore who will make their mark in the future. The problem is that these parties that broke away from Swapo only managed to steal each other’s supporters and did not really make a dent in the ruling party’s support. But with the new leaders coming up, it could a different story altogether.

Why are fewer people attending UPM rallies considering the fact this year’s campaigns have been characterised by few incidents of political intimidation and political violence? Is this an indication UPM is a non-entity as far as main stream politics is concerned?

“At this stage it is very difficult for the party to aertise to get the message across. Remember at the start we said that there are claims that this is a Baster party and that of cause has an influence on the attendance. I believe that after the elections people will start realising that this party is not only for Rehoboth, that this a national movement that is really trying to attend to the problems of all people. And then of cause the other problem is leadership. If you don’t have g leadership in a certain place to make sure that the message of the party is spread then it will be difficult. So we need to groom our leaders in different places and make them responsible for taking the message of the party further. We will try to make our presence felt in other towns such as Aranos, Mariental and others. And if we see from the parliamentary elections that we have g support there, we will contest the local elections there.”

How many supporters do you have and who are your supporters?

“If we look at our database right now we have over 15 000 members in the former Rehoboth gebiet and of course in Windhoek we have over 1 000 members, but it can be more because our people are still working on the ground. But roughly we are looking at around 30 000+. We are not sure what role the old soldiers will play. We have them on the database. It depends on whether they and their families are with us. So we are looking at six to seven seats in Parliament.”

Source : New Era