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Defining the concept of an inclusive society

By Paul T Shipale
There is little contest that the main success of the last 24 years of the new Namibia was our peaceful and thoroughgoing political and democratic transformation.

While the global situation impacted on our situation, the decisions on the form and content of the negotiated settlement were taken by Namibians.

Our approach to the negotiations process thus reflected the long-held commitment of the national liberation struggle to our independence and self-determination as an emergent nation. Secondly, our negotiation was an inclusive process.

It recognised that our emergent nation is a product of many streams of history and culture and we must build on and celebrate this diversity. In this regard, our Founding President and Father of the Namibian Nation, H.E. Dr Sam Nujoma recently reminded us at a rally in Okahandja that during our long and bitter armed liberation struggle, we invoked the names of our forefathers who inspired us in the historic mission to liberate our country from foreign occupation. These are Captain Hendrik Witbooi, Jacob Marenga, Chief Kahimemwa Nguvauva, Chief Samwel Maharero, Chief Nehale Lja Mpingana, Chief Mandume ja Ndemufayo, Chief Iipumbu ja Tshilongo and others who fought the war of resistance against German colonialism and South African apartheid colonial occupation and contributed to our common identity. Our settlement also included a commitment to reconciliation, based on acknowledgement of an historical injustice, and weaved into the DNA of the new Namibia the African humanism and thus laid the foundation for a nation and society based on solidarity, tolerance and caring.

Thirdly, few societies in such a short space of time have experienced the depth and breadth of policy, legal and institutional transformation. This process is symbolised by many black and white, young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban Namibians celebrating the birth of a new nation on the 21st of March 1990 and is also embedded in the adoption of our Constitution.

This tour de force of our political transition saw the new democratic parliament during its first years adopting policies and laws aimed at the integration of numerous raciallybased departments of education, health, welfare, etc. into single public systems that serve all; the establishment of new regions and forms of local government; the integration of old enemies from the SWATF, the Police and the intelligence services with the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), SWAPO's Military wing into security forces sworn to serve and protect all our people; the establishment and the moulding of a single public service that began to address the social backlog in housing, access to electricity, communications, water, education, social security and health, and other basic services.

The Constitution also provided the parameters of our evolving democratic polity: regular elections in a multiparty democracy; protection against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, or creed; the commitment to gender equality; freedom of association, movement, speech and the media; protection of workers' rights, and the rights of children and the elderly; equality before the law etc.

These freedoms are underpinned by our approached to nation-formation that is based on unity in diversity, and the recognition that such unity requires respect for, and tolerance of, diversity. The Constitution unequivocally proclaimed our nation's commitment to dealing with the legacy of apartheid, colonialism and patriarchy, and promoting unity in diversity. Thus, the Constitution forms a critical part of our nation's collective resource in the promotion of a Namibian identity , nationbuilding and an Inclusive Society.

However, our political transition was never only about freedom from political bondage. From the onset, our struggle was inextricably linked with freedom from socioeconomic bondage, captured in the concept of social justice and the strategy of the second phase of the struggle for economic emancipation.

The policy debates of the early 1990s - as we were preparing to govern - focused on this link, and in particular the postapartheid developmental path. We knew that development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in the development and in the fair distribution of benefits of results resulting therefrom. Building an inclusive society: the best of human civilization To a large degree, the tasks of the political transition - the democratisation of the polity (laws, institutions, policies, personnel) - have been achieved, thanks to the able leadership of our Founding President and that the next phase s therefore focused on the consolidation and deepening of our nation-building project, which was successfully carried out by President Pohamba But we recognise that the task of nation-building will be more difficult and yet requires on-going attention, especially in building consensus around a common national vision and the role that different communities and sectors play in advancing this vision, hence the continuation of the second phase of the struggle for economic emancipation and the strategy of an Inclusive Society which is well articulated by Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob.

Apart from the state-building and socio-economic aspects of nation-formation, we must also continue to pay attention to the role of arts and culture, tradition, and sports as they evolve and contribute to an emerging and diverse Namibian identity. It is further recognised that patriarchal oppression remains embedded in economic, social, religious, cultural and other relations in society. The progress therefore made in setting the constitutional, policy, legal and institutional framework for gender equality is but the first step in building an inclusive society.

Therefore, transforming gender relations, the eradication of all manifestations and consequences of patriarchal oppression, and the creation of material and cultural conditions for women's emancipation remain integral parts of our political consolidation in the second phase of the struggle for economic emancipation. Thus in our Gender discussion documents we talk about the need for ongoing gender-mainstreaming.

The socio-economic character of an inclusive society The socioeconomic character of our Inclusive Society, must, firstly, be based on the resolution of an historical injustice. Our Strategy and Tactics therefore called for 'corrective measures' beyond political rights, a systematic programme of affirmative action aimed at those excluded on the basis of race and gender in the process eradicating apartheid's production relations. The need for such affirmative action may decline over time as all centres of power and influence and other critical spheres of social endeavour become broadly representative of the country's demographics.

In the approach to the eradication of apartheid production relations, our strategy and tactics should note that we seek to transform the specific relations of production that underpinned the national and gender oppression and super-exploitation of the majority, but not to eradicate capitalist relations of production. Thus, class contradictions and therefore class struggle will remain. The role of the state (and by implication the SWAPO Party led-government) is to regulate the environment in which such contradictions manifest themselves, in the interest of national development, including fundamental socioeconomic transformation.

The economy of an Inclusive Society is defined as a thriving, mixed economy that reflects the natural endowments of the country and the skills of its populace. This economy is further elaborated as: A mix of private, state, and other forms of social ownership, with the balance between social and private ownership of investment resources to be determined on the balance of evidence in relation to national development needs; De-racialisation of ownership and control of wealth. It is a known fact that the Namibian economy could not be where it is today without the contribution of our own Namibian business community which worked very hard to ensure that they become a critical pillar of our economy. Our economy should also have an efficient market, free from racial and gender exclusions that characterised apartheid-colonialism; Land reform and rural development, including land redistribution, assistance to emergent and smallscale farmers; Social policies that include a comprehensive social security system and elements of the social wage such as social grants, free basic services, free education, subsidised health care, subsidised public transport and basic accommodation as well as anti-poverty programmes that seek to integrate individuals, especially women, communities and citizens living in informal settlements into the economic mainstream; The protection of workers' rights, fair and balanced relations between employers and employees, and law-governed measures to ensure decent jobs, job security and a living wage; Cutting edge technology, labour-absorbing industrial development, a thriving small and medium-sized business sector, utilisation of information and communication technologies, and efficient forms of production and management, all combine to ensure national prosperity and an Inclusive Society.

The immediate programme to achieve accelerated and shared growth must therefore include: Macroeconomic balances that support sustainable growth and development, as requirements that ensure higher rates of growth, labour-absorption and poverty reduction; An industrial strategy to build an economy with high levels of manufacturing activity, modern services, expanding trade, cutting edge technology and a vibrant small business and cooperative sector; The mobilisation of investment towards these ends, including state, private and community investment;

The achievement of shared growth by focusing on the creation of decent jobs and ensuring an improving quality of life for workers; The implementation of programmes to eliminate economic dualism and exclusion, including specific attention to industries in marginalised communities, rural development, access to micro- credit, small business development, public works projects and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods at community and household level. This also requires the intensification of broad-based economic empowerment programmes, and a balanced and sustainable spatial development. In short, for a truly inclusive and prosperous national developmental society to emerge, we need a state that is developmental in its objectives and capabilities.

A developmental state that develops the capabilities to guide national economic development through fiscal redistribution, mobilisation of domestic and foreign capital and other social partners, utilisation of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), industrial policy and regulation. The uniquely Namibian developmental state should have the capacity to intervene in the economy in the interest of higher rates of growth and sustainable development; with effective and sustainable programmes that address challenges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment with requisite emphasis on vulnerable groups; and that mobilises the people as a whole, especially the poor, to act as their own liberators through participatory and representative democracy. Finally, our inclusive Society should seek to build a democracy with social content, which primarily draws from elements of the best traditions of social democracy, which include: a system which places the needs of the poor and social issues such as health care, education and a social safety net at the top of the national agenda; strong partnership with the trade union movement; and promotion of international solidarity. This is what Namibians are going to vote for as they understand that a society that cannot help many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich and therefore we need an Inclusive Society.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.


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