The Presidency issued a statement in defence of the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (Neeef) in response to what it labelled “regrettable” and “unfortunate” reporting by some media.
The statement came swiftly in the wake of a widely published Economist article, which in effect made the case that the Geingob administration was busy orchestrating a Zimbabwe-style expropriation of economic assets, with Neeef as the policy tool, from white Namibians, and that the country was doomed to suffer the same fate as its regional neighbour.
The statement, released by presidential spokesperson Albertus Aochamub, reads that “some media reports have created the impression that the draft law is creating a division amongst black and white business owners, and that the proposed 25% ownership transfer will be without compensation. The Bill is still in a draft form, and will be resubmitted to Cabinet following recent consultations and the suggestions made by various stakeholders. Therefore, this impression is wholly inaccurate and misleading.”
The Presidency goes on to state that “it is regrettable that in flagrant disregard of basic reporting and media standards, none of the authors, reporters and/or editors of the print and electronic media have sought comment or an update on the current status of the bill. This is particularly unfortunate, given that it dilutes the noble objectives of the bill, and also misinterprets the call for unity and support for how the draft law can be improved to serve the Namibian people collectively.” However, while levelling this charge against “print and electronic media”, Aochamub does not specify which “regrettable” and “unfortunate” media reports have been responsible for stoking “anxiety”.
Aochamub's statement also speaks about the legacy impacts of systemic colonialism and apartheid rule “that deliberately disadvantaged sectors of our society economically, socially and educationally. This has led to a gross income inequality that still continues to create uneasiness among all its citizens 27 years after independence”.
The statement goes on to say: “The continuing divisive tone and deliberate misinformation to scare off investors and pit Namibians against each other should not be tolerated by any peaceloving Namibian. Government has consulted widely on Neeef, and members of the public and representatives of various stakeholder groups have had their say to be reflected in the revised draft document.”
The Presidency furthermore states that a revised Neeef bill was close to being finalised, and would be submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) before being tabled in parliament in May. According to the statement, following public consultations, the Law Refiorm and Development Commission (LRDC) had been tasked with redrafting the Neeef Bill to reflect concerns over “the 25% compulsory divestment; the importance of skills development; the composition of the council; the definition of previously disadvantaged persons; and the concerns raised about the definition and scope of private sector enterprise”.
“These matters have all been revisited in the light of the provisions of the Namibian Constitution, and to address some of the concerns that were raised during the public consultations,” Aochamub added.
Once the revised bill has been submitted to the OPM, it will be brought before Cabinet for dicussion. “Once Cabinet approves the proposals, a revised version of the draft will be subjected to the Cabinet committee on legislation and possibly further targeted stakeholder consultations before it will be submitted to the legal drafters. Once the drafters are satisfied with the text of the draft law, it will be submitted to the attorney general, and then to parliament for consideration.”
The Presidency's statement adds: “Finally, we still ask: what is the alternative to Neeef? It certainly can't be the maintenance and entrenching of the status quo. The LRDC stands ready to provide any further details on the draft bill to all Namibians and friends of Namibia of good conscience, or to consider other alternatives being proposed.”