‘Unemployed may turn into terrorists’

Geingob acknowledges dangers of joblessness
In perhaps his second-last SONA, the president boldly acknowledged that frustrated youths could easily be swayed into terrorism.
Jemima Beukes
President Hage Geingob stopped short of declaring a state of emergency over unemployment, but startlingly stated that hordes of frustrated unemployed youth may turn to ‘terrorism’ for survival.

He said he is not keen on declaring youth unemployment a crisis because crisis management is a huge task. The president made these remarks when confronted by members of parliament about skyrocketing youth unemployment during his State of Nation Address (SONA).

According to Geingob, government has pushed and succeeded in ensuring every child has access to schools and now there is a mismatch between jobs and applicants. At the same time, he admitted that youth unemployment is a serious crisis.

“I am worried about declaring a state of emergency on youth unemployment even though I agree that it is a serious problem,” he said. “Youth, if they all going to rise up, it will be a crisis, and they can get guns. Terrorism, that’s what I am talking about. They could be recruited and be misled by other forces... and since they are frustrated, they can join them. So, we can create jobs so that we diffuse the danger that is facing us,” he said.

Huge mistake

National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) secretary-general Josef Kauandenge yesterday said it was wrong for Namibia to throw away the apartheid education system - known as Bantu education system - in 1994, adding that the Swapo government made a terrible mistake by adopting the Cambridge system.

He said the current education system is simply “swallowing billions of dollars”, but has created a serious crisis that trickles down the country’s devastating unemployment rate. “Mr President, are you a president of bold statements and no action? Are you a president who over-promises and under-delivers?” he asked.

Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi, a former deputy lands minister, told Geingob that his cabinet was stuffed with underperforming ministers. “Some ministers in your government should really get their act together. The ministry of education is a ministry where we have problems. We have proposed in this house that we take the grade 11 learners back to school because we have not done anything for our kids during Covid-19. We should at least give them seven or eight months to rewrite instead of throwing them away,” he said.

Geingob beats chest over governance record

Geingob, delivering perhaps his second-last SONA, said he has demonstrated firm commitment towards the fight against corruption. He cited how, in 2018, he demanded explanations from ministers accused of corruption and asked the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to also investigate those allegations. Geingob did not act against any of the accused ministers – apart from shifting them to different portfolios.

One of these ministers, Sacky Shanghala, resigned on his own accord after the Fishrot exposé blew up in his face in late 2019. He remains in jail, awaiting trial alongside other nine other men – among them former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau.

“Concerning the Fishrot case, since the matter is in the court, I cannot comment on it,” the president said in parliament, where the opposition also staged a mini demonstration against the fisheries bribery scandal in which over N$317 million was allegedly stolen.

While the domestic economy has staggered during Geingob’s reign in office, due in part to the pandemic, the president was bullish yesterday about the prospects for growth. “Namibia's domestic economy has demonstrated resilience, registering a better-than-expected growth of 4% last year, with expectation for further forecasted growth of 3.2% this year,” he said. “The return of the economy to a positive growth trajectory is welcome, as it brings much-needed growth in revenue collection as well as stems the trend of declining per capita income.”

‘Milestone to be proud of’

On delivering prosperity – which has been his rallying cry since taking office in 2015 – Geingob cited the creation of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, christened the Welwitschia Fund, which aims to enhance national resilience and promote intergenerational prosperity through the redistribution of benefits from our natural resource endowments. “The fund received N$300 million seed capital from government and the Bank of Namibia [BoN]. Furthermore, the fund will be managed by BoN while legislation to govern its operation, including the capitalisation of the fund, is being put in place. This is a milestone that all Namibians should be proud of.”

The head of state added that the discovery of oil in the country is welcome news for future economic opportunities, including jobs. Unemployment currently stands at roughly 50%, the highest in post-independence history. “We intend to move with lightning speed to capitalise on these endowments in a coordinated manner, in recognition of the urgent need to create more new jobs,” he said.

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