Realising the Promised Land : Gauging implementation of the Country’s Strategic Vision

In the inaugural speech of Namibia’s Independence Day celebrations, Founding President Dr. Sam Nujoma reiterated and cemented the commitment to delivery of promises made to Namibians, as the new government began to take shape.

Freedom fighters waged a 105 year old bitter campaign, which commenced during German colonial occupation and culminated in the liberation movement successfully toppling the apartheid regime.

Ahead of this historic speech in which President Nujoma vowed to advance programs to level the playing field for Namibia’s previously disadvantaged, the Swapo party’s 1989 election manifesto highlighted and mapped out the initial programs Nujoma’s newborn government would be engrossed with.

The Swapo manifesto became the country’s first comprehensive policy document, showcasing the strategic vision of the new government, but also signaling its ideological premise. This was a manifesto, which would lay the foundation, if not pioneer indigenous development for all Namibians. It was the basis upon which the Namibian people carved out a new, united, progressive and prosperous nation.

Etched from the ruling party’s ethos which are freedom, justice and solidarity, the manifesto became the launching pad from which the country would design its ever evolving national development programs. In essence, the manifesto was the symbolic and material oasis that continues to guide every consequent strategic plan since.

At the very heart of these promises were Swapo’s vision of governance architecture and administrative strategies, economic reforms which would homogenize and nationalize sectors and industries, inclusive wealth distribution, social and cultural integration and rural and urban development. Standing above these are the endeavors to protect peace and stability, for which the country remains chronically lauded. But how much of it has been achieved, and 34 years into sovereignty, what remains to be improved?

Locating these answers has become a paradox, depending from which isle of the social or political spectrum the lens emanates. In recent years, a growing number of young Namibians, troubled especially by the urban housing crisis, have begun to make disparaging comparisons about quality of life before and after independence.

Informed only by their desperate present circumstances, and relying on receding national memory about the horrors of oppressive regimes, these youths question what incapacitates the state from meeting its obligations. On the opposite end of this argument is a rebuttal, claiming that while government has indeed struggled with urban housing provision and youth unemployment, there is a better and constantly improving national narrative about promises fulfilled.

Immediately, upon taking the reins, government was engrossed with establishing a responsive public service system, introducing programs to promote human rights and bring Namibians closer to development in both urban and rural areas. Albeit painstaking, the state worked tirelessly around sociocultural programs which were concerned with educating Namibians about the ideals of nationalism and being an important and valued part of a new whole, which was everyone’s responsibility to realize.

Another metric of success for the 1989 manifesto is the maintenance of peace and stability. In fact, for political scholars and general public alike, the country sits in a pristine position of having held a high standard of decorum, even and especially when either in disagreement or facing a crisis. Just a mere month ago, Namibians mourned and laid to rest their third president and champion of national unity, Dr Hage G Geingob. Within hours of his departure from the earthly realm, the political leadership smoothly established new presidential leadership, a feat rarely seen anywhere in the world. Swapo through this manifesto managed to build sound stakeholder relationships with the rest of the political class but also supported the culture of peaceful and stable building of state.

Quizzically, absent from this document however, was a clear plan to address the land question. While the manifesto occupied itself with programs aimed at corrective measures in most critical spaces, it made very little commentary on how the land, retrieved from majority indigenous populations under coercive and deceptive circumstances, would be shared or returned.

Correlating with this fact is the Constitution of Namibia’s Article 16, which land activists and commentators have since diagnosed as the main source of the headache. Criticism emerged, citing this clause in the Constitution as the antithesis to Swapo’s main liberation objectives, and which paints the latter and the Constituent Assembly as ideologically reckless to not have categorically stated a position on land. Instead, the ruling government relied on goodwill as nurtured by the Reconciliation rhetoric, which produced the “Willing Buyer, Willing Seller” project, touted as a kid glove solution to a powder keg situation. The land issue, which government has tried to discuss, in the first and second national land conferences, promises to remain in public discourse, as one of the main weaknesses of the ruling government, then and today.

This weakness however, takes second place to the problem of corruption, which the Manifesto highlighted as critical to arrest in the interest of civic trust, democracy, and accountability. To that end, the Ombudsman and the Anti Corruption Commission were established, but have both failed to successfully resolve and arrest a worsening culture of political patronage, nepotism and fraud performed in state institutions.

Despite some serious bottlenecks however, the 1989 manifesto largely remained on course and paves the way for the country’s national agenda, particularly on economic growth.

Case in point is economic development which Swapo had targeted as a key priority area in its 1989 manifesto. In juxtaposition to the economic conductions his government inherited, which he termed as lacking coordination, Namibia now enjoys a much expanded, inclusive and diverse economic model. In this sense, and notwithstanding impediments, it can be factually argued that much progression has happened where the economy is concerned.

On the eve of the 1989 National and Presidential elections, Swapo found the Namibian economy (then Swa/Namibia) in a state that the party described as totally lacking coordination, and various economic sectors operating with minimum linkages.

During this period, only 3 dominant economic groups ( white commercial farmers, the foreign mining companies and South African fishing companies) played the major role of profit maximisation as a form of own interest. Raw materials where exported at the cost of minimum or no consumption domestically.

Against this background, the 1989 Swapo Manifesto outlined 3 major economic problems, namely:

  1. Ownership relations,
  2. Unequal wealth distribution of national income , and
  3. Absence of a Diversified Economy.

As independence Dawned on the 21st of March 1990, the Swapo Manifesto 1989 was translated into the three year Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) , the five National Development Plans (NDPs) and is further augmented and reaffirmed in the Vision 2030 and Harambee Prosperity Plans 1 and 2 by the Swapo led government.

The three year TNDP (1991 – 1994), objectives where : reviving and sustaining economic growth, poverty alleviation, reducing income inequality levels and creating employment opportunities through prioritised sectors of the economy. However, the TNDP acknowledged that the restructuring was constrained by the projects inherited from the previous administration.

Therefore, the reconstructing continues to enjoy increased attention and the NDPs were formulated as guiding national documents of economic and social reconstruction.

The first NDP, NDP 1 ran from the period 1995 – 2000, and focused on economic diversification and consolidation of achievements realized during the first 5 years of Independence.

During the NDP 2 (2002- 2006) , the focus included new social and macroeconomic chapters, and of significance, regional development. The emphasis was on poverty reduction, HIV and Aids, Science and Technology, Private sector development, income distribution, and the actual investment realised during this NDP stood at N$55,3 billion and 4, 7% of annual growth. One of the complications during NDP 2 was that decentralisation did not move at the desired pace, due to the fact of the anscence of a sound Monitoring and Evaluation systems.

Poised to address access to land and capital, the NDP 3 (2007 – 2012) was regarded as the major step to bring about industrial prosperity and Land reforms . THUS, During NDP 3, the Growth at Home strategy, which was the road map for the execution of the Industrial Policy 2012, was created and became implemented in April 2015. Because of the magnitude of Industrial aims for Namibia, the NDP3 required a N$76,3 billion from combined efforts by the private sector, public sector and international stakeholders over a period of 5 years.

From 2013 – 2017, NDP 4 focused on high and equally sustained economic growth, employment creation and increased income equality. Because of the difficulties experienced with implementation for the first 3 NDPs, NDP 4 furthermore, highlighted Monitoring and Evaluation (M & E), so as to ensure that accountability became a very critical factor in ensuring the success of the NDP4.

The inclusive economic growth, Human resource development, sustainable environment, and transparent governance through effective institutions are the 4 major goals of NDP5, which ran for the period 2017 to 2022. The main criticism flagged for NDP5 is lack of consistency over policies, and that it was viewed as too ambitious during its initial year of implementation. Furthermore, the NDP5 experienced very difficult economic times due to emergence of Covid 19, but started showing recovery towards its end.

Whilst Namibia set out the 5 NDPs, the Government, during the second NDP, introduced and further augmented the realization of the promise of a better Namibia for all in its long term strategy, the Vision 2030 and its flexible and supplementary projects, the HPP1 and HPP2.

Vision 2030, was Launched in June 2004.

In line with the Swapo manifesto of 1989, the major aim of Vision 2030 is to improve the living conditions of Namibian people and secure a progressive and sustainable future. It carried this promise throughout 4 of the NDPs and is envisaged to run concurrently with the now in planning NDP6 which is currently under review before its implementation starting in 2025 and will be completed in 2030.

Vision 2030 promised security in terms of food safety, life expectancy by providing better health care to combat and prevent infectious diseases such as HIV and Aids, and market security by placing the Namibian economy as an open, diversified and resource based industrial economy with vibrant commercial agriculture. Founding President Nujoma’s dream of value addition, local beneficiation and growth at home, all became realities under his successors.

It was intrinsically understood that without the right human Labour, education and training, no major development plan could materialize, never mind attain success. This is because skills development and quality education are central to securing development for Namibian Human resources under Vision 2030.

To realize these objectives of Vision 2030: Gender Equality, Peace and Social justice, health and development, sustainable agriculture and education, science and technology were identified as driving forces.

Major challenges of Vision 2030 is the will of all Namibians to work together to realised it.

The Private sector should for example, increased its efforts in the skills development and education contributions, to implement Affirmative Action and to increase its efforts in international trade. The quarantee provided in the Namibian Constitution forms the legal basis of Vision 2030, therefore creating an enabling, conducive environment is crucial in order to maintain peace and stability and a stable and sound macroeconomic environment. The provision of effective service delivery through sound and successful governance forms the significant part of Vision 2030.

Due to its lengthy time frame, Vision 2030 is viewed as too unrealistic and the difficulty to track and measure successes and failures is its key criticism. It is very crucial to note that there is a food insecurity crisis looming over Namibia, partly caused by persistent droughts and that the pace of realisation of a sustainable agriculture is too slow, due to difficulties experienced with readdressing the land ownership issue in Namibia. It is noticeable, that Namibia according to global Hunger index, scored 78 out of 121 countries, and that 22% of the Namibian population remain food insecure, according to reliable reports and figures (amidst efforts of drought relief programs) . Whilst efforts where made to have every Namibian household access to electricity : the rural households electrification stood at just 19% of the 45% of the electricitification rate, according 2021 reports.

Furthermore, youth unemployment accounts for 50% of the National unemployment rate of 21% according to 2023 reports and figures.

And whilst the country adopted the policy on science and technology, much of its adaptions are viewed as external and not building of indegenous technologies. A good example is the The currently underway Green Hydrogen project is a promised to still be realized in terms of securing a better living standard through access to energy and electricity. However, the GH project, is viewed too risky, unrealistic and would come very costly to Namibia. Thus, improved and redoubling of efforts still needs to be make under skills transfer and investment in quality education and training, to bring about a skilled youth workforce in Namibia.

Among its measurable successes is the 50/50 Gender equality in the Namibian parliament, known as Zebra 50/50. In terms of the Economic growth and to achieve full industrialisation and sustainable use of natural resources – the Growth at Home strategy is being viewed as a successful implementation.

Having been at the forefront of designing the country’s public service, and famously advancing the power and significance of processes, systems and institutions, late President Hage G. Geingob introduced the HPPs as part of his administration’s response to concerns raised around the lifespans of the Vision 2030 and the NDPs

The HPPs, while accused of duplicating the roles of the Vision2030, and the NDPs, were in fact, fast tracking mechanisms aimed at ensuring Namibians of present generations, witnessed and experienced transformation in their lifetime. While having a philosophical correlation with the 1989 manifesto, the HPP was an urgent mitigation to arrest discontent associated.

From a strategic point of view the Swapo manifesto of 1989 was the formulation stage; its overarching strategy is Vision 2030, with the NDPs as phases of implementation, and the HHPs performing as the monitoring and evaluation tools to bring about the realization of the Promise made by the inaugural government.

While Namibians reflect and continue to moot the circumstances, challenges and achievements of the last 34 years, it can conclusively be argued that the promised land has become a home everyone can pride itself in building. And one which has foundations, strong enough to sustain it during evolving geopolitical climate.

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