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When corruption is more than just an academic topic for conversation

When corruption is more than just an academic topic for conversation

It is always a pleasure to tell foreigners corruption is not ingrained in Namibian culture. It is easy to make this statement when comparing us to Angola, or Zambia or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where corruption is so common, nothing moves without a bribe.

Unfortunately, the corruptless culture no longer seems true.

An incident that happened last week alerted me to the fact that corruption is everywhere and that my bragging, although impressing the visitors, is not a reflection of reality. Perhaps it is the pervasive culture of entitlement or perhaps it is just a lousy, lazy civil servant trying to exploit a customer by abusing the authority that comes with his position, but what happened was real, not some third-party gossip.

A group of official from Customs & Excise had to be present when a container with electronic goods was unpacked to check the contents with the bill of lading. It was not required of them to do any physical work. They were only on site as inspectors. But as such they yield a lot of authority. If for any petty reason they are not satisfied with the outcome of their inspection, the importer can face a mountain of bureacratic red tape to prove the content is ligit, properly declared, and not destined for any other client.

Since it took several hours to unpack the entire container, the customs officials started complaining that they were hungry. Now these are salaried civil servants, they do not attend to customs duties out of love or charity. When the owner offered to buy a light meal, the officials were not impressed with what he suggested, asking instead for different, far more substantive items from the menu.

This infringement was ignored by the owner but it was only after the inspection was completed, that another volley was fired. The customs officials each wanted a gift from the store owned by the importer. Grudgingly the owner said yes, giving instructions that each official could pick an item within a certain price range.

This did not sit well with the customs official. Instead they insisted that they pick the items they fancy. One officer, with elevated taste took home a gift of which the cost price is almost N$2000.

There are many ways that one can interpret this incident. The importer willingly provided the meals and the gifts. He was not forced or coerced. It was not a typical Japanese inspection. But fundamentally the demands from the customs officials are still a form of corruption. They demand food despite the fact that they are paid to do that job. And they requested to be compensated because they were so diligent in passing the container content.

Perhaps the only consolation is that the gifts were only demanded after the inspection was completed.

But the audacity to insist on food and gifts that fulfil their expectations, is beyond all comprehension.

It can be argued that the owner should not have given in to their requests but when a business regularly imports large quantities of goods, that business operates on the trust and the goodwill of Customs and Excise. So there is a tremendous amount of leverage, and the mere fact that the officials demanded items much higher in value than what the owner offered, shows me they know the value of their authority.

This is the type of incident that must never happen in Namibia. The customs officials are paid to be unpartial, consistent and reliable. The fact that they suddenly saw a whole mountain of valuables in front of them, should not entice them to take some of it even with the consent of the owner.

When relating this incident to me, it was stressed that the customs officials did not blackmail the owner. I accept that but there is no way getting around the fact that they asked for some form of compensation, call it a goodwill investment if you like.

Whether they received pricey or cheaper goodies is irrellevant, the transgression lies in the asking. When this turned into insistence that the gifts must be of a higher value, it became common corruption in the sense that they abused the relationship between them and the importer.

We can offer all the plans we want to fight poverty, to invest in education, to improve productivity but if people who earn government salaries use their positions for their own gain, they are corrupt, and we are wasting our time with all our fancy intentions. Then we simply have to accept the fact that the pervasive culture of entitlement is slowly steering us on a course where we will end up just another corrupt African country.

Then any grand idea about the Namibian House is just hot air, because the people who are supposed to live in this house, are slowly destroying it themselves. As long as a culture of demanding something for nothing persists, we will build and build and build, but the bricks will be carried away as quickly as we make them.


 

 

About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The Economist started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at www.economist.com.na. It is the first Namibian newspaper to go fully digital. Daniel Steinmann is an authority on macro-economics having established a sound record of budget analysis, strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of journalism students as interns and as young professional jourlists. He regularly helps economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to daniel@economist.com.na

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia

Promotion

20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.