NEEEF's enemies will fail - Geingob

28 February 2018 | Local News

President Hage Geingob says efforts to challenge the provisions of the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) are destined to fail and that the legal foundations and equity considerations used to enact the legislation cannot be disputed.

The president also took a swipe at naysayers and detractors who continue to criticise government interventions aimed at redressing the apartheid legacy of income disparities and the lack of participation of the black majority in the economy, without offering solutions.

“Our response to those that try to discredit government interventions at every opportunity is: what are your solutions? Sadly, very often, the reply is a deafening silence,” Geingob said yesterday during a cabinet workshop held at State House on NEEEF.

The contentious piece of legislation is in its final stages of development and could be tabled within the current year, Geingob has revealed.

“First, they insinuate that NEEEF targets a particular segment of our population. Second, they argue that NEEEF will affect our economic competitiveness.

Third, they allege that government does not take the land issue and concomitant income inequalities seriously,” the president charged.

Motivating the need for a broad-based empowerment framework, Geingob said there is a need to address structural inequalities inherent in the economy.

“The NEEEF consultations and the implementation of the strategy constitute a necessary intervention in dealing with structural inequality, of which income disparities and lack of participation of the black majority in the economy remain a glaring legacy of our past.

We will not allow the status quo to continue,” said Geingob.

Citing Article 23 of the Namibian Constitution, the president said there was provision made to enact laws that would address economic inequalities as had been the case with the Affirmative Action Act, therefore making them constitutional.

“I have to remind you that Article 23 authorises government to enact legislation providing directly or indirectly for the advancement of persons within Namibia who have been excluded from educational opportunities and economic activity by past discriminatory laws and practices.

“In the same vein, it also calls for the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at righting social, economic or educational imbalances in our country,” added Geingob.

Opposition to NEEEF, he said, was surprising and unwarranted given that wide consultations were still being held.

“The final leg of the consultation is now before us. It is disturbing to note that there are some who have cast aspersions on the National Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework, even before consultations were concluded,” said Geingob.

In implementing the framework, Namibia would be drawing on the experiences of other countries that had introduced similar empowerment frameworks to address inequality, the president said.

“In addressing the issue of income inequalities, we are not starting on a blank page. We can draw from the comparative experiences of Singapore, Malaysia and closer to home, South Africa. Even as we draw from their experiences, we will do it the Namibian way, context-specific and in a sustainable manner, where all feel included.”

While further allaying the fear of naysayers, Geingob said there would be interventions to track NEEEF's success.

“The framework makes provision for a monitoring mechanism, while it is absent from the bill. I support a proposal that a monitoring mechanism should be included in the bill,” he said.

Geingob also said that while there are efforts to challenge the provisions of NEEEF, such efforts are destined to fail.

“I am aware that there are some who have made it their mission to prove that certain provisions in the NEEEF Bill are unconstitutional. Our republic is founded on the rule of law.

“When you consider those provisions carefully, it is clear that the legal foundations and equity considerations, enacting the NEEEF legislation cannot be disputed. Our employment equity provisions have never been legally challenged,” said Geingob.

While further defending his confidence in the legality of the proposed framework, Geingob said employment equity provisions, drafted on the same premise as NEEEF, were never challenged.

He also encouraged private sector institutions to fund NEEEF programmes.

“Government cannot carry the sole burden of financing empowerment. It must be a collective responsibility, including Government, development finance institutions, the Government Institutions Pension Fund, private sector financial institutions and participating enterprises,” Geingob said.

While making his concluding remarks, he said there would be no losers when NEEEF converts to becoming a law in the near future.

“The New Equitable Economic Empowerment Bill is not about winners and losers. It is a noble win-win policy that will benefit the entire nation,” said Geingob.

Reflecting on the outcomes of the workshop, Geingob said feedback would be provided.

“We shall use this opportunity to provide feedback to the technical team on key policy and legal issues, which may need to be revisited, revised, replaced or even jettisoned,” he said.

The cabinet workshop concluded yesterday.

OGONE TLHAGE

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