Prepare for the re-opening of Namibia now

The time to reset minds, attitudes businesses to a post-COVID-19 reality is now.

Fisheries Ministry executive director Moses Maurihungirire allowed Erongo Marine Enterprises to go to sea despite the ban. Allowing one freezer vessel to go out while others remain on lockdown is not the way to re-open the economy. It is a poor start, but a start nonetheless. We can do better.

Now that one vessel is out, the sea should be open for the other vessels as quickly as practicable. The last thing needed now is even more hostility on the docks due to the accurate perceptions about under-the-table deals.

We look at the renovations on the kapana/meat selling/cutting area of the Single Quarters in Windhoek. It is preparing to reopen with better facilities. Let that offer an idea on how to prepare to jumpstart the country’s already-damaged economy.

Those in the public and private sectors, who have been working at home or lamenting their financial futures while on lockdown, take note. Perhaps a select few can return to their offices only for an hour or two each day this week. Be smart. Follow the hand washing, social spacing, and other protocols. No one should be working side-by-side. But, start moving things slowly (where possible).

Mentally, one cannot restart a nation like turning on a light switch. Phase-in is the best way.

At home, staff should be getting up at their normal work hours every day. They should start showering, dressing, and preparing as if they are going to the office. Check the car; some batteries may have died. If you will need childcare arrangements as some schools are not yet open, prepare that now. Long overdue meetings can be scheduled for next week. Contact entertainment venues and see who is opening and when. Make plans.

Banks will be flooded. They are going to come out of COVID with the same billions in profit that they had already. They should spend some of it by making sure all work stations are staffed with motivated people primed and ready to go. Consider extending hours for the first week after lockdown – open at 07h30 and close at 18h30. Or, remain open all day on Saturday.

Restaurants should already have one or two staff on duty to deep clean. They could redo menus; throw out spoiled food in the refrigerators or contact suppliers, and pre-order. Plan a re-opening special event or half-price drinks or foods.

Government offices that have been closed since late March will have a stampede of people on May 5th. Home Affairs, NATIS, Inland Revenue, CoW Municipality, and the Courts will have lines of people with pending business. Get prepared with a skeleton team now. Let staff roam the long lines and offer spot assistance and answers for the simple cases.

One supervisor and one or two people per area can go in this week to start getting things moving internally. Review all work left undone in March. Unclog filled email boxes. Address things that are backlogged. Fill the racks of public information brochures and forms. Start taking calls for a few hours from the public each day. Why not plan for a busy re-opening week. Civil Servants are getting paid anyway; so go earn it.

Restarting from stone-cold is tough on even the best of engines. Namibia has a turtle speed bureaucracy at best. Its notoriously disinterested and overworked civil servants need to be ready and waiting on May 5th.

Let us press the post-COVID-19 reset button now.

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