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Namibia Lacks Political Will to Fight Graft, Says Rights Activist

People walk under an election poster of Hifikepunye Pohamba in Katatura, outside Windhoek, (file photo)

The Executive Director of Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) says the latest World Bank graft report shows the government lacks the political will to root out the “menace.” Phil ya Nangoloh said the government has yet to implement measures that would fight corruption despite President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s promises to do so.

The World Bank stated in its report that “high-end corruption in Namibia involves tens of millions of dollars at a minimum [and that] many observers consider the influential role of one party to be one of the root causes of present-day concerns of corruption in Namibia.” The report continues that “privatization has strengthened the relationship between the business class and the political elite…Many black economic empowerment managers have become business tycoons, and are influencing parliamentary decisions and lobbying for legislation that will ultimately secure their wealth.”

Nangoloh said most Namibians are not baffled by the country’s reported high levels of corruption. He also said the government has not done enough to address the challenges of graft.

Phil ya Nangoloh, Executive Director of Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR)
Phil ya Nangoloh, Executive Director of Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR)

“That is not news because lately, hardly any day passes without reading a corruption story in the news media. In short, we are not surprised at all,” said Nangoloh. “The government has done enough as far as talk is concerned, but the government will be judged by their deeds not by their words.”

President Pohamba promised to encourage exemplary leadership and use state institutions as tools to fight graft after he was elected in 2005. But critics say there has yet to be an orchestrated effort by the government to eliminate the problem.

“There is no political will at all to fight corruption in this country, and that is quite understandable because those who are high-ranking officials of the government are [reportedly] the ones who are actually corrupt,” said Nangoloh. “The problem in Namibia is not the question of law or [the] absence of law. There are laws, but the question is implementation and that needs political will.”

But, the chief whip of the ruling SWAPO party in Namibia’s national assembly, Peter Katjavivi, says despite the doubts of critics, the government does have the political will to implement policies to “drastically” reduce graft.

“I can say with confidence that Namibia has not reached a stage where we can call corruption as a major issue of grave concern,” said Katjavivi. “It is not a matter only for the government. It’s a question of specifically sensitizing the general public. We all have obligations and responsibilities to make sure that we attack corruption.”

He also called on institutions of government and civil society groups to join in the crusade.

Katjavivi insists the government is serious about rooting out graft.

“I can confirm without any hesitation that both the head of state and his government and the rest of us are committed to doing exactly that. So given that political will, I have no doubt something will be done to make sure that there is visible improvement.”