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Public trust is vital to achieve recovery

Public trust is vital to achieve recovery

Niël Terblanché

 

THE public’s trust in its government is a crucial element of the plan to ensure that Namibia will be able to navigate the continued economic downturn and the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

President Hage Geingob, while officially opening the first session of Cabinet, warned members that Namibians are the ultimate sovereigns of the country and that leadership should reflect their needs and wishes.

 

“As President, I have made it explicitly clear that I view the public’s trust as sacrosanct. Leading the people of this great nation is the ultimate privilege. My ultimate priority and commitment is to advance the interests of all Namibians. All of you present here today must share the same sentiment and remain committed to ensuring that our processes, systems and institutions are characterised by greater transparency and accountability,” Geingob said.

 

The President stated that he will launch the second incarnation of the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which will contain a detailed economic recovery component that will outline specific measures to encourage investment and provide greater certainty in the country’s business environment.

 

He also indicated that he will be activating key projects aimed to act as catalytic interventions to stimulate economic activity, recovery and growth.

 

“This is the hour of resilience, commitment and fortitude. We cannot avoid our destiny,” he said.

 

H encouraged members of Cabinet to embrace the opportunity to better serve the country and leave an indelible footprint on the path towards prosperity and economic emancipation.

 

“The people of Namibia are counting on us,” Geingob stated.

 

Public trust government Namibia economic downturn COVID-19 pandemic
Pictured: President of Namibia, Dr. Hage Geingob. Photo: File

 

Geingob’s full address at the official opening of Cabinet reads as follows:


It gives me pleasure to welcome you to the Official Opening of Cabinet for the Year 2021. I hope that you have all made the most of the holiday season to get some respite and recharge yourselves in preparation for the year ahead.

It is going to be a pivotal year and one during which we will all be required to maximize our individual and collective capacities.

In these extraordinary times, I wish to also express gratitude to God that we have all returned in good health.

I am thankful that those of you, who were infected with COVID-19, managed to recover and regain your strength.

To suggest that the year 2020 was a challenging year would be an understatement. When we commenced our work as Cabinet at the beginning of last year, none of us anticipated what lay ahead for us.

Over the course of a challenging six-year period, this administration successfully staved off the negative effects of:

1. Unprecedented headwinds, brought about by a global economic downturn.

2. An extended period of severe periods of drought.

Having adopted a policy of fiscal consolidation while deploying economic intervention measures aimed at stimulating the economy, we were optimistic about rebounding, but alas, the arrival of COVID-19 put all of our plans into disarray.

COVID-19 has brought untold destruction to Namibia.

Lives have been lost prematurely, many Namibians are in hospital and have had their health compromised, our economy has suffered adverse effects and we have been forced to adapt our lives in ways that have affected us physically, psychologically and spiritually.

Despite the gloomy circumstances, Government, in conjunction with our Development Partners, the Private
Sector and citizens of Namibia, have worked tirelessly over the past several months to fight the war against the invisible enemy, COVID-19.

I wish to thank the Minister of Health for the sterling job done under very difficult circumstances. Together with his team, he has led from the front, tirelessly and with unwavering commitment to preserve Namibian lives.

I also commend the Right Honourable Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and
Attorney General, the Ministers of Finance, Education, Safety and Security, Defence and Information – alongside all other Ministers who have played an instrumental role in coordinating our national response to COVID-19.

We are aware that we are faced with a difficult balancing act; protecting Namibian lives while at the same time, ensuring our economy is not compromised.

It is a precarious situation and one that can only be overcome through ingenuity, collaboration and hard work.

To this extent, we are doing the utmost, to surmount the resultant economic crisis. In 2020, Government, as a matter of urgency, delivered measures of relief through the N$8 billion stimulus package, N$1 billion health response and N$500 million SME financing intervention.

Furthermore, this year I will be launching the Harambee Prosperity Plan II, which will contain a detailed Economic Recovery component, outlining specific measures to encourage investment and provide greater certainty in the business environment, as well as detailing key projects that will be implemented as catalytic interventions to stimulate economic activity, recovery and growth.

You may recall that in my New Year’s Message for 2021, I christened this year as the Year of Resilience. In coming up with this theme, I am not merely alluding to the difficult year we had but more so, I am expressing the inspiration I have received from Namibians from all walks of life. In his book titled Life, the Truth and Being Free motivational speaker Steve Maraboli states that, “Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving; we get stronger and more resilient.”

Indeed living under the scourge of COVID-19 has not been easy and the effects of the virus have been unforgiving.
However, I believe that as a People, as a nation, while we have lost much, we have also gained new strength and resilience.

I am confident this renewed strength and resilience, which draws inspiration from the sons and daughters whose sacrifice liberated Namibia, will help us rebuild our lives, families, society and economy, so that we will stand stronger than ever.

Psychologists have identified some of the factors that augment resilience, such as a positive attitude, optimism, conviction, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. An American author, Napoleon Hill once said, “Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit”.

Therefore, when we said to the people of Namibia, “We have heard you”, this was in response to the feedback we received when the citizens of this country exercised their democratic rights by participating in the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly Elections as well as the 2020 Local Authority and Regional Council elections.

Thus, as Government, we are mindful that our economic, social and environmental future rests on our ability to place people at the centre of decision-making.

Therefore effective governance, responsive institutions and an engaged citizenry are the bedrock of democracy and sustainable development. We remain optimistic about our prospects to recover from the devastation of 2020 and together with the people of Namibia, there is no doubt this country can return to a path of sustainable and inclusive growth and development.

Namibians have proven that they possess the ability to endure, adapt and overcome. In the face of unprecedented difficulties and changes, Namibians have become the principal agents for preventing and controlling the spread of this virus.

The projections we had received for the worst-case scenario were startling but to date, we have, to the best of our ability, kept the situation under control.

The integrity of our Health Sector remains intact and Cabinet has begun working in earnest to ensure the most vulnerable citizens will soon get access to much needed and sought after vaccines. In this regard, rest assured that all avenues will be exhausted when it comes to safeguarding the health of Namibians.

As the constitutional body responsible for the determination of policy, and for directing, coordinating and supervising the activities of various Offices, Ministries and
Agencies, we have a huge task ahead of us. Let me stress therefore that if we do not adopt a progressive approach to executing our duties, then we will not overcome the big challenges that are with us. Failure is not an option.

The people, who are the ultimate sovereigns, are looking to us for leadership and we should be able to articulate effective and implementable strategies to get Namibia back on course.
To this extent each one of you should get out of the comfort zone of your offices and avail yourselves to meet with community leaders, ordinary citizens, the media and members of the business community.

The path towards recovery is a collective effort. It is pertinent therefore, that the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers regularly engage with Traditional Authorities, faith based organisations, large and small businesses, academia, the media and the youth, amongst others, to engage in constructive discourse to identify effective solutions to implementing projects and programmes. This should be an ongoing process, because as we address existing issues, new problems may arise.

The Year of Resilience must be defined by a collective approach to nation building and the challenges we face.

For that reason, the channels of communication between Government and the People must be enhanced so that every citizen can participate in shaping the policies that affect his/her life.

As President, I have made it explicitly clear that I view the public’s trust as sacrosanct.

Leading the people of this great nation is the ultimate privilege. My ultimate priority and commitment is to advance the interests of all Namibians. All of you present here today must share the same sentiment and remain committed to ensuring that our processes, systems and institutions are characterized by greater transparency and accountability.

As we work towards safeguarding the Namibian population against COVID-19 and restarting our economy, we should take cognizance of the fact that many Namibians faced untold loss and made tremendous sacrifices.

We cannot ask others to make sacrifices without making sacrifices ourselves. It is therefore crucial that as Government, we continue to spend wisely and cut costs, wherever possible.

Furthermore, I wish to reiterate a very important point I made during last year’s landmark Cabinet Retreat. Delivery and execution is the key. Ministers should not delay implementation of crucial projects through procrastination and indecision.

I am aware that the aversion towards taking decisive action on the implementation of projects could stem from the fear of being perceived as corrupt, but I have always said that if one is not corrupt, then you have nothing to hide or fear. Do your job with clear conscience and to the best of your ability.

I have stated on several occasions that I believe that corruption is not systemic in Namibia, but perceptions have been created that Namibia is a corrupt society.

Although corruption is not systemic in Namibia, we recognize that some corrupt officials have tainted the name of our country. It is therefore important for all citizens to emphasize that corruption in any form, e.g. kickbacks, or percentage commission for the amount of a contract, is unacceptable.

Corruption and perceptions thereof erode public trust in institutions. We should therefore intensify the fight against corruption in order to ensure that each and every cent earmarked for development reaches the intended beneficiaries.

An Afrobarometer survey released on January 26, 2021 reveals that out of 18 African countries surveyed, Namibia and Cabo Verde emerged, as the top two countries were citizens don’t have to pay a bribe to access public services.

In other sections of the report, where Afrobarometer asked the opinions of respondents, the results were different due to the fact that the opinions are based on perceptions.

For example, where respondents were asked do you think corruption has increased, many responded to say yes.

However, in this particular instance, respondents were asked whether they have paid a bribe to government personnel responsible for issuing identity documents etc.

In terms of reporting corruption, let us take a cue from a local Transport company, which recently reported attempts of bribery to the relevant authorities.

This is the level of vigilance required from all of us in order to deal with the scourge of corruption decisively. It is a welcome development because I have said many times, that citizens are often afraid to report corruption out of fear of losing their jobs, licenses etc.

However, we must appreciate that Namibians paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Independence, therefore if we are intent on destroying corruption, we must be willing to make great sacrifices as well.

With regard to the allegations pertaining to FISCHCOR, I will maintain the same position I have shared with the Namibian public.

The case concerned has now reached a sensitive stage as the Prosecutor-General has taken a decision, and the case will soon proceed to trial. I will not seek to jeopardise or influence the administration of justice through public statements induced by the media.

When trial-related rules and ethics allow and at an appropriate time, I will extensively address the unfortunate insinuations, conjecture and mischievous interpretations, with a view to demonstrating their falsity.

I also wish to touch on another scourge that threatens the peace and stability of our country – GENDER BASED VIOLENCE.

The spate of GBV incidences is causing great distress all over the country. There should be no place in our society for these deplorable incidences to take place.

Once again, I call upon all stakeholders and peace-loving Namibians to join forces with the law enforcement agencies in the fight against this inhumane phenomenon.
Let us all unite to practice zero tolerance for GBV.

I have confidence in all of you and your renewed commitment to serve the people of Namibia with honour.

With the collective talent and expertise of this Cabinet and the Government at large, we can overcome the challenges facing us. Let us therefore hit the ground running and inspire confidence in Government, its programmes and activities.

The task that lies ahead may seem daunting but as the late great leader Commandante Fidel Castro once said, “Men do not shape destiny, destiny produces the man for the hour”.

Destiny has chosen the men and women of this Cabinet for the hour at hand. This is the hour of resilience, commitment and fortitude. We cannot avoid our destiny.

Thus, in this moment, we must embrace the opportunity we have to better serve this country and leave an indelible footprint on the path towards prosperity and economic emancipation.

The people of Namibia are counting on us.

Let us pull together in the same direction. Let us safeguard the lives of our people together. Let us rebuild our economy together. Together we will save lives.

Together we will build a more resilient and diverse economy. Together we will build a Namibia, which will be the pride of this generation and many more generations to come.

Long Live the Republic of Namibia and may God bless you all in the Year 2021.

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