Linklaters’ African election insights is a series of country specific bulletins, produced by the Linklaters Africa Group in collaboration with our network of best friend firms, that will consider elections in Africa and their potential effect on foreign investment and key economic sectors. This bulletin looks at the upcoming elections in Namibia and the possible policy changes that may follow.
Namibia’s presidential and national assembly elections will be held on 27 November 2019. This will be the second time Namibia will use electronic voting, having been the first African country to do so during the 2014 general election.
Presidential candidates are elected directly by voters and must receive more than 50 per cent. of votes to be declared president. In the national assembly, political parties are represented in proportion to the number of votes received.
15 political parties will compete in the upcoming elections. Of the 15, there are four main political parties and one independent candidate:
South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), led by president Hage Geingob was founded on 19 April 1960. SWAPO is Namibia’s primary political party and has been the ruling party since independence. In the 2014 elections, SWAPO received 86.73 per cent. of the total votes for the presidential elections and 77 seats in the national assembly;
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) – formerly the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) – is led by McHenry Venaani. PDM was established in 1977 and is the official opposition party in Namibia. In the 2014 elections, PDM received 4.97 per cent. of the total votes for the presidential elections and five seats in the national assembly;
Dr Panduleni Itula (Independent candidate) is a dentist and registered member of the SWAPO political party. He is the first person in Namibia’s history to contest the presidential elections as an independent candidate;
National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) was founded in 1964 and is led by Esther Utjiua Muinjangue, the party’s first female president and Namibia’s first female political party leader; and
Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), led by Mike Kavekotor, was founded in November 2007. In the 2014 elections, RDP received 3.39 per cent. of the total votes for the presidential elections and three seats in the national assembly.
Key Policy Proposals
In the upcoming elections SWAPO’s key policy objectives include:
- reducing youth unemployment;
- implementing land reform and provide affordable housing for all Namibians;
- intensifying the fight against corruption and organised crime and improve financial intelligence gathering;
- promoting economic diversification by encouraging manufacturing and tourism, generating sustainable renewable energy and increasing water desalination and other mineral beneficiation industries;
- intensifying the fight against genderbased violence;
- increasing Namibian ownership in the tourism sector;
- revitalising the Namibian economy to create jobs, reduce poverty and achieve inclusive and wide-spread development;
- introducing measures for compulsory Namibian ownership in the mining sector; and
- developing a transparent framework for career advancement in the public sector.
PDM’s vision is to revolutionise Namibia by making it a hub for renewable energy, and by building a stronger economy with modernised infrastructure and a cleaner environment. Some of PDM’s policy proposals include:
- Environment and infrastructure: To invest in de-salination plants to address water scarcity and support agricultural activities.
- Health: To build clinics in every constituency.
- Governance: To reduce Cabinet officials to 15 ministers and four deputies to tackle corruption in government and state-owned enterprises.
- Education: To provide universal free primary education and free tertiary education in key areas to support economic growth; to establish institutions of higher learning in every region in Namibia to improve the quality of education, with greater emphasis on vocational training.
Dr Panduleni Itula
Dr Itula’s policy proposals include:
- Land: Increasing the availability of land for farming housing and resources to Namibia’s indigenous peoples and conducting a referendum to prevent the sale of land to foreigners.
- Housing: Introducing housing programmes/schemes designed specifically to provide shelter and improve the standards of accommodation for the people in the informal settlements.
- Healthcare: redressing the lack of sanitation, water and electricity in all remote settlements.
- Governance: eradicating corruption.
NUDO’s vision for Namibia is the promotion of gender equality, economic prosperity and industrialisation. Some of NUDO’s policy proposals include:
- Gender equality and women empowerment: Women are to be appointed in executive positions on a 50/50 basis; 20 per cent of the procurement budgets’ products are to be sourced from women-owned businesses; collateral free microfinance is to be provided for women entrepreneurs.
- Land reform and land ownership: To establish fair and transparent processes and institutions to verify and determine ancestral land claims. Land prices in Namibia are to be capped and controlled at agricultural productive value only.
- Redistribution of wealth and social and economic equity: To create a welfare state to improve healthcare, education and reduce unemployment.
RDP advocates transparency and democracy in all governance systems and institutions, and broad-based economic development to benefit all citizens. Some of RDP’s policy proposals include:
- Governance: RDP intends to conduct an independent audit on all stateowned enterprises to ascertain their viability, and to implement corrective measures against non-efficient enterprises. It has announced plans to reduce the size of the national assembly from 104 seats to 72 and to condense the number of ministries from 20 to 16. The RDP also plans to curtail regional and international trips by state officials and eradicate the current “jobs for comrades” ethos which it says has caused a bloated cabinet and civil service.
- Housing: To establish a competent housing development agency to plan, implement and oversee the execution of the national housing programme. The aim is drastically to reduce the price of land through the provision of serviced land in urban areas and prohibit the practice of auctioning state land in urban and rural centres for housing developments.
- Land reform and land ownership: Utilise all land – including communal land – as collateral to unlock potential for development throughout Namibia.
Key Proposed Legislative Changes
All the political parties have set forth proposals in their pre-election campaigns in relation to land reform, housing, governance, and healthcare. However only SWAPO has identified specific legislation requiring reform to achieve its proposals. Outlined below are key legislative enactments that are likely to impact potential investors in Namibia if SWAPO were to retain power:
Namibia Investment Promotion Act, 2016 (NIPA): The Act aims to promote sustainable economic development and growth through the mobilisation and attraction of domestic and foreign investment. Although NIPA was promulgated on 31 August 2016, substantial amendments have been made to it after industry stakeholders raised concerns about the possible negative impacts on investment in Namibia. Of particular concern was the discretionary power given to the Minister of Industrialisation to reserve categories of businesses exclusively for:
- the State;
- Namibians and entities whose majority shareholdings are owned by Namibians;
- joint venture partnerships between Namibian investors and foreign investors; and
- foreign investors and investment proposals that are have been considered by the Minister of Industrialisation to create a net benefit for Namibia.
We anticipate that an amended or a new repealing Act could be operational by April 2020.
The New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (“NEEEF”) Bill, 2016: The objective of this proposed bill is to achieve the constitutional right to equality by promoting the participation of previously disadvantaged persons in business enterprises in Namibia. Once enacted, the NEEEF will form the basis for draft legislation concerning empowerment measures in Namibia similar to the Black Economic Empowerment legislation enacted in South Africa.
Whistle-blower Protection Act, 2017: This Act is aimed at strengthening governance and anti-corruption measures through improved transparency and accountability. It sets out conditional protections for whistle-blowers and how disclosures should be dealt with. Once in force, it will provide for the establishment of the Whistle-blower Protection Review Tribunal and the Whistle-blower Protection Office (WBPO), headed by a commissioner and supported by an advisory committee.
Amendments to the Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax Act and Export Levy Act: Several tax amendments have been proposed following consultations with stakeholders. Some of these proposals include:
- VAT to be charged on the proceeds of the sale of shares in a company owning commercial property and on income of listed asset managers;
- phasing out the current tax incentive for manufacturers and exporters of manufactured goods;
- repealing the Export Processing Zone and introducing the Special Economic Zones, with a sunset clause for current operators with the EPZ status;
- introducing a 10 percent dividend tax for dividends paid to residents;
- abolishing the current practice of a conduit principle in the taxation of trusts;
- deepening the current hybrid tax system by taxing all income earned from foreign sources – Namibian residents will have to declare such income in their annual tax returns; and
- preventing non-mining entities from deducting royalties from their tax liabilities.
Land Bill, 2016: This bill aims to promote an efficient and transparent unitary system of land administration in Namibia. One of its main objectives is to make provisions for the acquisition of agricultural land by the State for the purposes of land reform and for the allocation of such land to disadvantaged Namibian citizens who do not own or have limited access to adequate agricultural land due to discriminatory laws or practices. It also seeks to prohibit the acquisition of agricultural land by foreign nationals.
Electronic Transactions and Cyber Crime Bill, 2017: This bill seeks to provide a framework for the use of electronic transactions in government services and private contracts. Once in force, it will provide for consumer protection in electronic commerce as well as protection of critical data and regulate the liability of service providers.