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History in the making; Transformational leadership needed

By Paul T Shipale
After months of campaigning and political spin, the Election Day is finally here. This is not just another election, but it could be the most important election of a generation, if not a lifetime. Either way, it will make a statement that will be heard all over, even if some still don't believe is reality when viewed from our prism of experiences, our struggles, our pains, our hopes and dreams.

At this juncture, it is worth looking in retrospective when we first voted to elect the Constituent Assembly in 1989. Despite the countless murders, lynching, jailing and fear tactics we had to endure, we didn't allow those inflicting horrid methods of oppression to deter us from exercising our inalienable right to vote and we eventually witnessed the birth of a new nation on the 21st of March 1990.

So, there can be absolutely no excuse not to vote. And just as significantly, there is no justifiable reason why any of us can ever use any excuse not to cast their vote and participate in making history by electing the third President of our country including the first Vice President. We might also have in the process one of the most charming, admired and economic wise first Lady plus a young and dynamic first female Prime Minister. Thus, history is going to record that we either voted or we didn't vote. We don't want to be on the wrong side of history and despite the challenges we are facing, as the Founding President and Father of the Nation, H. E. Dr. Sam Nujoma reminded us, we should lift our eyes beyond the challenges of today and cast them on the hopes of tomorrow and remain united as a nation.

The debate is not about which President but how do we push him to be a better President? After all, great Presidents are not born; great Presidents are made and pushed into their greatness. Each one of us has a crucial role in creating a better future for all because the future belongs to those who shape it. The future belongs to those who plan and describe it and the future belongs to those who define it. That said; we need a paradigm shift to understand that leadership is a responsibility and a privilege but never a right. We too need to understand that leadership must certainly be about positive influence and an ability to give direction as well as willing to serve and get the job done.

In this context, while we celebrate the strides made, we still contend that we certainly haven't reached the ideal goal of a truly transformed and equitable society, hence the concept of an inclusive society and the theme of consolidating peace, stability and prosperity. We still have a society that deals with the harsh realities of an inequitable job market, high rates of unemployment, a much skewed representation at top-tier executive level and major impediments towards transferring direct ownership to the previously disadvantaged at macro-economic level. In addition, ownership and control of capital still resides in the hands of a few and predominantly white. The solution to this predicament is neither just to decry that there are few previously disadvantaged in key positions nor come up with inciting rhetoric but to produce more skills across the board to address the lack of inclusiveness and inequality.

Indeed, for our country to realise her full potential, we need fundamental change in economic power relations; we need the redefinition of economic power relations between the haves and the have-nots. This means a person's race; religion, status, place of birth; language and gender must not determine his/her ultimate station in life. It means equal and equitable chance of success in any endeavour of his/her choice in life. It means fundamental deracialization of the economy. Simply put, it does not mean re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic but re-building the ship. In a keynote address, Former President of the South African Black Management Forum (BMF) Dr. Donald Mkwanazi says the structures of our economies are queer, at best.

Queer because some are bent on extracting the maximum our countries can produce, with the sole intention of siphoning it out of the borders. There exists, as a result, the now prevalent thinking that the only way to stimulate our economies are through foreign investment. This is laughable when, as countries, we have large reserves of mineral wealth. It is the very infatuation with nice, sophisticated, free-market principles that do not have a strategic fit with the development stage of our economy which keep us in poverty.

In order to respond to the question whether we are in a position to define and articulate the stage of development of our economy, Dr. Mkwanazi asserts that the first steps towards responding to this question will be to address the realities of our countries, effectively and honestly. But the question is; how are we planning our future, what kind of investment are we making to secure the ever-elusive "sustained economic growth"? We must begin to look beyond the adopted sophisticated economic policies and mechanisms that do not suit or are not designed to respond to our unique challenges, said Dr. Mkwanazi.

Few would challenge the proposition that human capital is fundamental to economic growth. However, we all know the crucial role that institutions of higher learning play in the development and unleashing of the full force of human capital. We have a jobless growth, no economic growth and highest Gini-coefficient in the world; we need more than higher economic growth. Successful countries the world over have one thing at the heart of their achievements:

Education. Not just any education but quality education. Exhaustive analysis of countries such as Brazil with 2600 universities, South Korea 420 universities, China with 2300 universities, Japan with 160 public schools and over 560 universities invested by the private sector; India with 600 universities and more than 33000 affiliate colleges show that besides accessibility and quality, relevant education impacts positively on sustainable economic development and growth. The respective economies of these countries are performing well under the circumstances. It therefore becomes imperative that we increase the number of graduates with relevant skills for our economy.

It also becomes critical that we seriously look at increasing the number of tertiary institutions and spend a higher percentage of our GDP on tertiary education as we have been doing. We need a skills revolution to train hundreds of thousands of young Namibians in science technology, engineering, innovation and research, and also to develop skills in all priority sectors, including mining and infrastructure development. This is what our Founding President and Father of the Namibian Nation, H.E. Dr. Nujoma has been advocating all these years. But what do we do with those students failed by our system? A percent of our kids at tertiary institutions are unable to pay at the end of their first year of study. Their results are withheld and then they cannot continue with their studies and eventually drop out.

The explanation given is about budget deficit, while our young minds are left to fend for themselves in the wilderness of no education. What are the odds of providing free university/tertiary education via the deficit and producing highly skilled young people, juxtaposed with a balanced budget with an unskilled populace and high unemployment? Another example is that of a pool of potential graduates that are between the ages of 25 and 55, and are in various management and technical positions.

These people are more experienced and productive than a 21 yearold fresh out of university. Why can't we look at other countries' models that assist mature students and adult learners to obtain an associate or graduate degree, if these people have a minimum duration of relevant work experience? In addition, I agree with what was written by one weekly local newspaper on 20 June 2013, that if we continue to underestimate the devastating impact the lack of affordable housing has on people's lives, it may end up exploding as a ticking time bomb because "the lack of housing creates a permanent sense of insecurity in people's lives, causes economic distress, disrupts family life, destroys relationships and even people's sanity. Despite the huge figures announced... of expenditure of N$1.3 billion for housing and sanitation over the current MTEF, including N$90 million for the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), there are few signs of any real movement on the ground", Reported the weekly newspaper which continued saying; "It makes no sense that in a vast and sparsely populated country, residential plots cost as much as N$700,000 (and that we are second to the city of Dubai).

NHE only offers a small number of houses, with one bed-room houses costing somewhere between N$90,000 and N$120,000 and it costs the NHE N$75,000 for just a plot to build houses for Namibian low-income earners. NHE Core Houses for low-income earners now cost somewhere between N$240,000 and N$320,000. Given that 52 percent of Namibians earn either nothing or less than N$1,500 how are they ever going to be able to afford these houses? Something is seriously wrong here, but it has nothing to do with the difference in the cost of building materials, but rather expensive land and the lack of appropriate financing instruments. Perhaps it is time we create new institutions like the South Africa's Housing Development Agency, which has the explicit mandate to acquire land on behalf of government for human settlement" suggested the weekly newspaper.

We also need a transformational leader who understands that the economic and politically structured society during apartheid ultimately caused disparities in employment, occupation and income within the labour markets, which provided advantages to certain groups and people. As a matter of state policy, the Apartheid government favoured white-owned companies. The aforementioned policies achieved the desired results, but in the process they marginalised and excluded black people. Skilled jobs were also reserved for white people, and blacks were largely used as unskilled labour, and this was enforced by legislation. This in due course was the motivation to introduce Affirmative Action and Economic Empowerment policies for the previously disadvantaged.

Similarities between the BEE and affirmative action are apparent; however there is a difference. Affirmative Action is meant to promote the constitutional right of equality and exercise true democracy.

This idea was to eliminate unfair discrimination in employment, to ensure the implementation of employment equity to redress the effects of discrimination, to achieve a diverse workforce broadly representative of our people, and to promote economic development and efficiency in the workforce, among others. The BEE on the other hand, is not a moral initiative to redress the wrongs of the past but to promote growth and strategies that aim to realize a country's full potential. The idea is targeting the weakest link in economics, which is inequality and which would help develop the economy. This occurrence would result in a completely diverse workforce in economic and social sectors, thus broadening the economic base and therefore stimulating economic growth.

One last issue is that of mineral beneficiation. According to Ben Turok, Director of the Institute for African Alternatives (IFAA) who presented to the UN's African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) a paper on mineral beneficiation and value chains titled: "The interface between mining and manufacturing", the most useful approach to beneficiation and value addition is to unpack the linkages that govern the practical use of minerals and identify obstacle to beneficiation and value-addition in the domestic value chain.

These are, broadly, input linkages, which are the steps that bring the mineral to the surface and process it to an intermediate level and include the manufacture of capital goods, which provide more financial returns than beneficiated goods; forward linkages that lead to fabrication and the lateral linkages which are the training and services that accompany the whole exercise. Our involvement in the mining sector should not be sceptical about the potential for mineral beneficiation as well as of labourintensive manufacturing, because of the high cost structure, labour costs and management acumen as well as lack of skills for large scale labour-intensive manufacturing projects.

We should address the issue of ownership in the mining sector and contribution of the sector towards the next phase of industrialisation and towards growth and what should be our policy towards these issues in the context of these and other proposals on transformation of the mining sector, as part of our development path for the next decades.

We also need an export-orientated approach in higher value goods or niche markets (agriculture, agro-processing, and mining,) as well as tourism. This is the only way we can tackle the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Thus, the hour, the time and era has come to reposition ourselves and redefine our strategies. It is high time we reclaim the centrestage, renewal and redirection. That is why we need to go out in big numbers and vote for the only transformational leader who will get the job done based on the concept of an inclusive society and the theme of continuing the legacy of consolidating peace, stability and prosperity.

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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