Ethnocentric approach to funding local authorities – Swartbooi

Tujoromajo Kasuto

LANDLESS People’s Movement (LPM) leader, Bernadus Swartbooi, says there is an ethnocentric approach by central government in funding local authorities, which results in an imbalance because of politics and ethnocentric governance.

He notes that in many local authorities, if not a vast majority, there is a consistent pattern that’s resultant of insufficient funding in their human resource, financial capacity and most importantly, their local authority capacity, that affects their mandate to transform lives, save livelihoods and to create jobs.

He alleges this is a result of an agenda by the ruling party to cut budgets in areas where they did not retain high votes. Swartbooi cautions no government has the political or legal constitution to undermine the democratic expression of people who have chosen to vote for other political parties.

In addition he observes that when looking at local authorities, such as Otjiwarongo, Gobabis, or Swakopmund, this approach can be seen there. Furthermore predominantly the assistance they get from the central government is Road Fund Administration (RFA) money to maintain, build tarred and interlocked roads.

RFA, he says, predominantly ranges from N$1 to N$ 3 million depending on which local authority it is. However, he adds there is an imbalance, where for instance, the Oshakati Town Council in Oshana has fifteen large urban settlement.

In addition, Swartbooi raises the issue of increased cross transfer or allocation of workers from one region and ethnicity to another region where they are a minority over those who reside within the region. “In Otjiwarongo, in a hospital nurses and administrative staff are brought in from Omusati, from on ethnic group whereby those work there are afraid to raise concerns about it.”

According to him the Otjiwarongo State hospital is the “new Omusati”, which he says is unacceptable as he mentions the town predominantly is inhabited by the Son and OvaHerero people, thus he questions as to why they are not given first priority.

“If one goes to Oshana, Omusati it is highly unlikely that they will find this ethnic groups employed there or dominating those local authorities,” he adds. He says the multi character of the society changes in terms of the leadership composition in regional and local council, especially when one enters the Oshivelo settlement gate in the Oshikoto region.

Swartbooi says regional leaders need to emulate the multicultural content and character of their regions “Exclusively only one ethnic group governs the area and nobody points it out as tribalism, however South of the redline people are creating a dominance which is unjustified and think that it is okay that they can bring in from one region to dominate in another.”

Meanwhile, Henning Melber, says in the staffing of posts in regional and local administration, one needs to aspire at a coherent and fair policy. This would either mean that posts nationwide are filled by people from also other cultural backgrounds and regions if they qualify, or that staff is always selected on the basis of their local affinity.

This would be effective in avoiding selectivity and preferential treatment, either in all 14 regions and all town councils and municipalities positions should.

Melber explains that it cannot be one option in some parts of the country and another in other parts of the country, since this would be tantamount to discrimination. “This then fuels the perception of unfair or preferential treatment and results in a deepening of ethnic rivalries and animosities, culminating in some of the recent interventions, “he notes.

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