Friday, 13 January 2012

Cry The Beloved Country

From the Namibian newspaper 13 January 2012

PEOPLE no longer become ashamed or show sympathy in this country, it seems. They only get angry and aggressive when caught out or when dubious deals are questioned.
Some are so brazen they tell critics to leave them in peace in order to make their money. “It’s not my fault you don’t want to be in business,” is one refrain. “You are just jealous,” is the more common one. The details of the incidents exposed by the media are ignored as even the masses buy into the defence that journalists and other critics are simply envious because young blacks are becoming ‘empowered’ and getting rich in the process.
Two such incidents provided this newspaper with ample fodder for ‘hard news’ over the holiday season, a time generally viewed as a ‘soft news’ period. Seemingly the officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Ministry of Works and Transport regard the reporting and questioning of two tenders as either an irritant or unnecessary and unjustifiable.
Both contracts were discussed and decided just before Christmas, a time when the country literally shuts down for more than a month. And they were regarded as ‘too urgent’ to wait for proper procedure. The agriculture ministry’s Permanent Secretary Andrew Ndishishi pushed through a decision to award a dam construction project to an Italian company called Impregilo at a cost of N$2,8 billion – a good N$800 million more than the lowest bid from a Chinese company also considered suitably qualified.
The Minister of Works and Transport, Erkki Nghimtina, is also said to have insisted that only one company be considered in a N$150 million emergency contract to repair a decrepit railway line. Despite the Tender Board telling the works ministry to find at least two competitors, it came as no surprise that the ministry claims it could find no one else ‘open for business’ except the company it had hand-picked.
The government officials find nothing wrong with the fact that they or their friends own those companies which get government tenders, as is the case with the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, Dr Ndeutala Angolo, whose Schoemans Office Systems supplied State House equipment.
It is probably unfair to people like Angolo to mention names because the incestuous government-business relationships have become so commonplace that it is understandable if apparent do-gooders like President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Prime Minister Nahas Angula begin to despair.
It already appears that the general population have resigned themselves to aspects which in many societies would be frowned upon as dubious deals and corrupt systems.
In fact, the situation is so bad there are many Namibians who wish former President Sam Nujoma was back in power, because, they argue, at least under him corruption was ‘well managed’ or at least restricted to a few. This is despite the fact that Nujoma’s mere presence remains the cause of the paralysis that has gripped those he left in charge of the ruling party and the government.
Cry beloved Namibia, cry.