Top news from Namibia
10 June 2021
Namibia in grip of Covid wave
The parliamentary sitting for today (10 June 2021) was cancelled due to Covid-19 cases reported among parliamentary staff.
This is a reflection of the exponential spike in the number of new infections, hospitalisations, and deaths recorded across the country over the last few weeks.
Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Kalumbi Shangula in Parliament on Wednesday (9 June 2021) said the numbers are “alarming”.
The ministry on Tuesday reported a 25% positivity ratio from tests over a 24-hour period.
The deadly South African variant of the virus was confirmed in a “significant” number of Covid-19 positive cases.
Shangula reported that from 7 June Namibia reported a cumulative number of 59'092 confirmed cases and 912 deaths, compared to 355 deaths reported by 7 February.
In the last two weeks Namibia reported 5'761 new confirmed cases and 147 deaths.
The increased numbers are placing a huge strain on public and private health facilities.
The occupancy rate in most Covid-19 isolation and intensive care units ranges between 67% and 100% on any given day.
The ministry started with its vaccination roll-out on 18 March with donations of 100'000 doses of China's Sinopharm, and 30'000 doses of Covishield from India.
Namibia also received two consignments totalling 67'200 doses of AstraZeneca from the COVAX facility.
Shangula said more doses of vaccines are expected from Sinopharm through the African Medical Supply (AMS) platform.
By 7 June 76'259 people have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, and 11'608 were fully vaccinated.
Motion on youth empowerment in offing
Landless People's Movement (LPM) MP Utaara Mootu will table a motion in Parliament on an 'integrated youth development strategy'.
She said the aim of the motion is to harness political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal instruments for the eradication of poverty among the country's youth.
Mootu said while the youth form the bulk of the Namibian nation, government's response over the last 31 years since independence has been “inadequate or misplaced”.
“The youth of Namibia are intentionally exposed to poverty and unemployment, worse than ever before,” Mootu said.
Mootu also called for an investment conference to attract investments to the newly opened Neckertal Dam in the south of the country.
Practical solution to water debts required
United Democratic Front (UDF) MP Dudu Murorua wants Parliament to debate and consider practical means that will help local authorities become self-sustaining in servicing their water debts to the national water utility, NamWater.
Many municipalities are in arrears with their water payments, payments they are not able to make and which leave them indefinitely indebted to NamWater.
Kasingo explains PAP chaos
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Loide Kasingo on 8 June 2021 said the abrupt chaotic ending of the fourth ordinary session of the fifth Pan African Parliament (PAP) was due to a succession battle between African regional blocks making up the legislative body.
Kasingo has led the Namibian delegation of lawmakers to the session in May in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Reporting to the Namibian Parliament this week, she said despite the principle of geographical rotation agreed upon by the African Union, the northern and southern African regions have been deprived of the leadership since the inception of PAP in 2004.
“This was the bone of contention in the recent session of PAP,” Kasingo said.
For the past 17 years, the presidency of PAP was held by eastern, central, and western African regions.
Kasingo said the opposition to the demands of rotation by western and some other regions degenerated into chaos, which warranted the suspension of the electoral process and the session.
Genocide agreement up front in Parliament
- Agreement fails to wow
The 1.1 billion Euros to be paid over 30 years for the 1904 to 1908 genocide of Ovaherero and Nama communities the German government has agreed to pay as reparations will not go towards the Namibian government, but will be paid into a special vehicle to be set out.
This was said by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila at the resumption of the third session of the seventh Parliament yesterday (8 June 2021) in reaction to public criticism that the money might be diverted by government to fill the cash-gaps in the national budget.
The Namibian and German governments have been involved in a five-year long negotiation process – between 2015 to 2021 – consisting of nine rounds of negotiations on the genocide matter, and struck an agreement on 15 May this year.
Under this agreement, the two governments will set up a body – an implementation vehicle – that will be responsible for the implementation of the reparations programme agreed upon.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the money will be deposited into a fund that is separate and outside of the Namibian government national budget, stressing that it will not be used for other government programmes and activities.
“The reconstruction and reconciliation programmes processes will be transparent, and the amounts allocated to the affected communities will be solely dedicated to the implementation of the agreement,” Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said.
She said the governance of the fund will be on a trilateral basis, composed of representatives of the Namibian and German governments, and the affected communities.
The legal framework for the implementation vehicle will be developed in a transparent manner with the full participation of the affected communities, she added.
The two governments agreed to set up a joint declaration, a framework that will guide the process of acknowledgement of genocide, rendering an apology, and the payments of reparations by the German government, as well as future relations between the two countries.
The declaration will be signed by the foreign ministers, and once signed, it will be brought to the Namibian National Assembly for consideration and ratification.
Components of the declaration
The three components of the declaration are:
- Acknowledgement of genocide: Germany has agreed that the genocide committed by German imperial troops against the Ovaherero and Nama between 1904 to 1908 constitutes and fits the definition of genocide as prescribed in the United Nations Convention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. It further agreed that a large number of Damaras and San communities were also exterminated.
- Apology: The German government agreed to render an unconditional apology to the affected communities and the people of Namibia for the genocide. This apology will be delivered by Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Namibia's National Assembly on a date yet to be agreed upon.
- Payment of reparations: Germany agreed to pay reparations in the form of monetary compensation for reconciliation and reconstruction programmes to particularly the affected communities.
Under the reconstruction programme, projects will be implemented in the Erongo, Hardap, //Kharas, Kunene, Khomas, Omaheke, and Otjozondjupa regions in the land reform sector, particularly for land acquisition within the framework of Namibia's land reform programme. Other areas to be covered are rural livelihoods, natural resources, rural infrastructure, energy, water supply, and technical and vocational education and training.
As far as the reconciliation programme goes, Germany committed to promote and support reconciliation between the peoples of the two countries through preserving memory work of the colonial era, in particular the 1904 to 1908 period, support for research and education, cultural and linguistic issues, and encouraging exchanges between the two nations.
Allocation of the funds
The two countries' governments agreed for the funds to be allocated over 30 years as followed:
- 50 million Euro for reconciliation
- 130 million Euro for renewable energy
- 150 million Euro for vocational training
- 100 million Euro for rural roads
- 130 million Euro for rural water supply and sanitation
- 540 million Euro for land acquisition and training
The agreement struck between the two governments has come under heavy criticism from the affected communities who feel that particularly the monetary compensation falls far short of the mark.
Traditional leaders from these communities have rejected Germany's money offer, and instead are now demanding N$8 trillion to be paid over a 40-year period, as well as a pension fund.
Opposition parties in parliament yesterday also denounced the agreement, and the declaration, accusing the Namibian government of having “sold out” and as having excluded the affected communities from the negotiations.
The affected communities suffered another defeat when the US Supreme court declined to hear the Ovaherero and Nama petition in a case brought by these communities against the German government there.
The Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) in a statement on Monday (7 June 2021) acknowledged defeat, stating: “This marks the end of our legal campaign in the courts of the US but most certainly not the end of our struggle to achieve restorative justice for our people.”
The OTA called for a trilateral negotiating platform where the descendants of the Ovaherero and Nama communities are represented by their own chosen leaders, and “not by a proxy in any shape or form”.
Photo: Ovaherero captives of German imperial troops. Namibia National Archives
Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform is allocated N$1.7 billion for the 2021/2022 financial year.
Of this, N$1.3 billion is to go towards agriculture and land reform. N$465.3 million is for water provision.
Minister Calle Schlettwein said the allocation is not enough for the sector to reach its full potential.
The sector is recovering from severe drought, it experienced a foot and mouth outbreak, and the country is battling a locust infestation.
“One can compare the current status of the sector to a cow that is recovering from drought, but now has to battle foot and mouth attack while the fresh grazing she depends on is diminished by locusts. The cow needs care and nursing,” Schlettwein pleaded.
Of the N$1.3 billion, a total of N$392.4 million is for development projects in the agricuture and land reform sectors.
N$863.5 million is for operational expenditures.
The livestock production programme for the improvement of animal health and marketing in the northern central area (NCA) is allocated N$96.2 million.
Crop and horticulture production gets N$143.2 million, which is inclusive of the Namibia Agricultural Mechanisation and Seed Improvement Programme (NAMSIP), which is allocated N$53 million.
The land reform programme gets N$119.7 million to address land acquisition for resettlement purposes, the rehabilitation of farm infrastructure on these farms, and the development of land in communal areas through programmes to integrate communities into the mainstream economy and the provision of secure land tenure in informal settlements through the implementation of the flexible land tenure system.
An amount of N465.3 million goes towards the improvement of water supply security and bulk water supply infrastructure, as well as the sanitation policy and programme.
For water infrastructure development, maintenance and rehabilitation, N$186.6 million is earmarked.
The ministry has also secured N$1.8 billion funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to address bulk and rural water supply needs of the country.
N$2.9 million is allocated for the construction of at least 250 sanitation facilities in rural areas.
Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation
Namibia's ministry of higher education is asking for a N$3.1 billion allocation for the 2021/2022 financial year.
A total of N$882 million is to go to the University of Namibia (UNAM), N$493.6 million to the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), and N$1.2 billion to the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF).
A N$402.5 million is requested for vocational training centres.
There are currently 68'757 students enrolled in higher education institutions, and 34'920 at vocational training centres.
NSFAF has awarded 32'849 loans to students at local and foreign institutions.
Moreover, a total of N$22 million is requested for the ministry's coordination and support programme.
The ministry has started to review existing policies for the education and training sector.
The National Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and the National Space Science and Technology Policy have already been approved by Cabinet.
Others are yet to be tabled to Cabinet.
The ministry is also looking into the construction of a student village in Windhoek's Khomasdal suburb.
For research, science, technology, and innovation, an amount of N$33 million is requested.
For its national commission for UNESCO programme, the ministry is requesting N$13.4 million.
Namibia is chairing the Africa Group and drives initiatives to Agenda 2063 in five fields of competence of UNESCO.
One of these is the World Press Freedom Day that will be commemorated in Windhoek from 29 April to 3 May.
Namibia will also participate in the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference at the end of 2021 in Paris, France.
The Namibia National Commission for UNESCO will celebrate its 30th anniversary in January 2022.
Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture
The education ministry is requesting a N$13.8 billion budget allocation for the 2021/2022 financial year.
This is 5.1% lower than the previous allocation despite the high allocation by international standards, averaging 20% of the national budget over the past seven years in line with the Dakar threshold, a commitment made by African governments.
The allocation to the operational budget is N$13.4 billion, and N$402.8 million for the development budget.
The allocations per programme are as follows:
- Pre-primary education N$406.4 million
- Primary education N$8.3 billion
- Secondary education N$3.9 billion
- Information, Adult, Lifelong Learning, Arts, and Culture N$448.7 million
- HIV/AIDS Unit N$2.2 million
- Policy coordination and support services N$728.4 million
Notwithstanding the huge allocation to basic education, the ministry has expressed concern over the outcomes, which are not congruent to the level of investment being ploughed into this sector.
For this reason, the ministry has unpacked the cost drivers to figure out mitigating approaches.
Textbooks and material supplies got N$35 million during the previous financial year.
Contrary to that, catering at public school hostels for 2021/2022 amounts to N$582 million for 65'000 learners, or eight percent of the total learner population of 800'000.
The ministry said this in itself shows a gross inequality, which may require parents and guardians to increase their current contributions for the upkeep of their children in hostels. It may also require the establishment of a hostel development fund.
The ministry has started to reclassify hostels to determine hostel feeds and development fund adjustments.
82% of the total budget allocation goes to the ministry's wage bill.
The ministry employs 40% of all public servants. Of these, 26'640 are teaching staff, and 12'102 are unified staff.
The ministry is considering freezing non-critical posts on the unified structure, while the number of posts mainly on the unified structure has been reduced.
Staff reductions have also been done at small and non-economical schools with less than 100 learners in some regions.
Expenditure on utilities has also been cut with the installation of pre-paid water and electricity metres.
To cut costs on construction work, the ministry is now working on a pro bono basis with Direct Design Lab (DDL) through its Friends of Education Namibia Special Initiative (FENSI) to develop an accelerated infrastructure plan to serve as a blueprint for all future construction projects.
With a huge repetition (125'000 learners in one year) and drop-out (32'000) rates, the ministry has calculated a loss of close to N$2 billion of investment per year.
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Last year learners lost half of their school year out of 198 days due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 outbreak.
In response, the ministry has developed a resilience plan for 2021 to 2023, which focuses on learning outcomes.
This plan includes interventions such as the streamlining and rationalising of curricula, the use of cohort systems, shifts or alternate days for school attendance, the introduction of blended learning (using both on-line and face-to-face teaching), distribution of learning materials through the media, and a downward revision of promotion requirements.
There was also an N$800 million allocation for Covid-19 infrastructure development.