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Tells it All - Namibian Sun

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Rand developments worrisome
  • Rand developments worrisomeRand developments worrisomeSA economic woes threaten Namibia An interest-rate hike and a steep rise in inflation are expected in Namibia as the rand – and the linked Namibian dollar - continue to weaken. Namibia can anticipate a steep rise in inflation and a hike in interest rates if the South African rand continues to weaken, according to economist Mally Likukela.

    Likukela says these two effects are unavoidable given the Common Monetary Area (CMA) agreement that links the Namibian dollar to the rand.

    The benefits of that relationship will be eroded if the rand keeps dropping in value, Likukela explains.

    Namibia will suffer because of the “contagion effect” - the spread of market disturbances from one regional market to others.

    He says the effects of South Africa's economic troubles will be felt almost immediately in Namibia because of the financial integration between the two countries.

    Inflation translates to an increase in the prices of imported goods. Namibia imports between 75% and 90% of its consumables from South Africa.

    A persistently weaker rand will push up interest rates in Namibia, since inflation is one of the factors the Bank of Namibia takes into account when deciding on the repo rate, which determines interest rates at commercial banks.

    Also playing an important role is the price of fuel. Likukela says with a weaker rand, petrol and diesel will cost more, which means higher transport costs - another reason for rising prices of goods and services.

    “While we have enjoyed a dip in crude oil prices, the weaker rand may tilt the scales to a higher net effect for the petrol at the pump,” he says.

    The government borrows a large amount of US dollars from international markets.

    The repayment of this debt will become more costly because lending to emerging markets is regarded as risky and interest is likely to rise.

    During the fourth quarter of 2016, vessels, fodder, mineral fuels and oils, boilers and vehicles led the list of major imported commodities by value from South Africa.

    According to the Gross Domestic Product Second Quarter 2016 report by the Namibia Statistics Agency, Namibia's trade deficit increased by N$3 billion last year.

    During the fourth quarter of 2016, Namibia posted a negative trade balance of N$14.1 billion, up from N$11 billion recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2015, and from N$7.3 billion reported in the previous quarter.

    NAMPA

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    Make that 9% pay hike work for youMake that 9% pay hike work for you As from 1 April 2017, all government employees are eligible for a 9% salary increase agreed with trade unions. This was announced by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Ericah Shafudah, in a memorandum sent to all government ministries, offices and agencies.

    One civil servant looking forward to this windfall is Katrina Mbeeli. She has decided to save part of the extra money for a rainy day.

    “I plan opening a 32-day account and institute a stop order on my salary so that half of that amount is automatically transferred into it. I am glad that this increase, albeit small, will change my life.

    “In the past I just worked to pay my expenses and bills. But now this increase will enable me to save some money. I am grateful to the government for this increase during these hard economic times and the hard financial times it is facing. The 9% increase will translate to more than N$1 000 of my salary,” she said. Hileni Shivute, employed by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, says she will use her increase to better provide for her children.

    “Everything is very expensive now and my children have had to do without some things. I hope now I will be able to have extra money to give them a treat once in a while. I want to save most, if not all, of the money that will come with the increase. I am an avid money saver and I love saving money because you never know what life has in store for you,” she says.

    “I do not mind them calling me stingy, a miser, tight-fisted or Ms Goldfinger because that will not change what I want to achieve and I wish they realise how hard this money is earned for them to appreciate why I do not waste it.”

    Offering some savvy financial advice, Sanlam spokesperson Ilke Platt-Akwenye says: “Allow yourself to make that 9% work for you, by keeping the following in mind: save and invest in vehicles such as unit trusts. Contribute to an existing retirement account or establish an emergency fund. Think of a pay raise as an opportunity to prepare for less prosperous times.

    “Pay off part of your debt. Reducing debt can clear the way for bigger-ticket purchases like a house or new car. Save for something fun in the future, such as a vacation, and don't forget taxes, those annoying taxes we all have to pay can leave you with a smaller windfall than you realised.”

    STAFF REPORTER

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: PMR win for NWR
  • PMR win for NWRPMR win for NWR In what can be described as an affirmation of the work being done by tourism company, Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) was presented with the Diamond Arrow award from PMR Africa on 29 March as the leading organisation in tourism and conservation enhancement in Namibia.

    The award was a result of a research process whereby different companies were nominated and rated by respondents against specific attributes.

    NWR emerged as the overall winner within its category and received the highest rating, which is a Diamond classification. Zelna Hengari, NWR's managing director, believes all the hard work her team has been doing behind the scenes is being recognised.

    “As the largest tourism company in Namibia, it is our duty to lead by example and to set the trend. By so doing, we remain relevant to our clients, who are the reason behind us striving to become better.

    “That is the reason why one should never trade focus and hard work for immediate gratification.”



    STAFF REPORTER

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    Moody's downgrade expected tooMoody's downgrade expected too Just hours after rating agency S&P Global downgraded South Africa's foreign currency rating to junk status, rival agency Moody's put SA on review for a downgrade in a move that suggests it will cut its rating sooner rather than later, possibly by more than one notch.

    Moody's rating on SA is two notches into the investment-grade scale, so a one-notch downgrade would still leave it investment grade, but some expect that it might opt for two notches when it publishes a scheduled statement on Friday.

    Moody's said its decision to put the rating on review was prompted by the abrupt change in leadership of key government institutions, which raised questions about progress on essential reforms and about the effectiveness of SA's policymaking institutions.

    Given its potentially negative impact on fragile domestic and external investor confidence, the change in leadership could also have immediate implications for growth and public debt levels, Moody's said.

    The review would assess the likelihood of changes in key areas of financial and macro-economic policymaking as well as in strategic structural areas such as energy policy, Moody's said.

    Moody's has been the most upbeat of the three major agencies, giving SA credit for the strength of its institutions and seeing last year's local government elections and the increasing political contestation in SA as having the potential for more market-friendly changes in the medium term.

    BUSINESS DAY

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Junk status looms again
  • Junk status looms againJunk status looms againRatings revision may be on the horizon Namibia needs to increase investor confidence following the downgrading of South Africa's investment status, says a local economist. Namibia will need to present a stronger case to ratings agencies Moody's and Fitch to avoid being downgraded to junk status following Monday's downgrading of South Africa's creditworthiness, says the executive director of the Economic Association of Namibia, Klaus Schade.

    Both ratings agencies changed Namibia's outlook from stable to negative last year.

    In its assessment released in December last year, Moody's said a downgrade would likely come as a result of the Namibian government's inability to implement a new fiscal consolidation plan that was introduced to contain public-sector debt accumulation beyond Moody's baseline measure. It also pointed to sustained declines in foreign-currency reserves below three months of import cover and an increase in borrowing costs.

    Fitch, on the other hand, said factors that would warrant a downgrade in its opinion included the government's failure to narrow the fiscal deficit, which had led to a continued rise in the government's debt-to-GDP ratio, failure to narrow the current-account deficit or significant drawdown in international reserves, and the deterioration in economic growth.

    “The depreciation of the Namibian dollar (NAD) will increase the value of the Eurobonds in Namibian dollar terms and hence could increase the debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio, which is one of the figures sovereign rating agencies consider,” says Schade.

    “Furthermore, the depreciation will increase our debt servicing costs for the Eurobonds, which will reduce the funds available for other expenditure, such as medical aid, investment in infrastructure amongst others.”

    As a result of exchange-rate volatility, debt servicing will also become more expensive, he says.

    “More money will flow out of the country in the form of debt servicing and less government funds are available for domestic expenditure, which could impact on economic growth.”

    Exogenous factors will also add to Namibia's assessment woes, according to Schade.

    “In addition, the political uncertainties in South Africa, if not addressed speedily, will reduce foreign direct investment and therefore economic growth and job creation. This will affect us as well, since South Africa is an important export destination and since economic growth usually results in growing imports and inflows into the South African Customs Union Common Revenue Pool.”

    Namibia Equity Brokers head of research Alfred Kamupingene has a different take on the downgrade.

    “Following the downgrade, South Africa is at BB+, while Namibia is at BBB-. This scenario will invariably raise questions about benchmarking of Namibian bonds on the South African bonds. People will then ask the logical question: How do you benchmark your sovereign paper on bonds with a low rating?” Kamupingene says.

    “This is the only dilemma that I see. The current political impasse is South Africa specific; therefore it will be irresponsible for people to extrapolate that to Namibia. This is not to say that we are pontiffs, we definitively have our own headaches. However, we should be judged based on what we do and not what our neighbours do.”

    Both Moody's and Fitch have placed Namibia one notch above junk status, at BBB- and Baa3 respectively, and affirmed its long-term credit rating at stable.

    Meanwhile, independent analyst Rowland Brown has tweeted that Namibia has lost as much as N$1.6 billion as a result of exchange-rate fluctuations following South Africa's downgrading by S&P on Monday.

    OGONE TLHAGE

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: New ruminant feed mill
  • New ruminant feed millNew ruminant feed millFeedmaster will compete with world standards Investing around N$31 million, local company Feedmaster's new ruminant feed mill will be one of the best in the world. After continued growth in the ruminant feed market, Namibia’s major producer of animal feed Feedmaster has announced that a new N$31-million feed mill is in process of being constructed.

    The new ruminant feeding mill that replaces the current feed mill in the northern industrial area of Windhoek, will be one of the most technologically advanced ruminant feed plants in the world.

    With a total investment of N$31 million, construction of the latest technology Techmach-designed ruminant feed mill commenced in January this year and it will likely be commissioned during September.

    The investment came as a result of consistent growth in the ruminant feed market sector and advances in local precision farming practises which require the use of animal feeds to improve livestock production profitability.

    According to Ian Collard, CEO of Namib Mills, energy-efficient equipment with higher output and low electricity demand will be installed in the new mill.

    “This will lead to efficient production and a smaller environmental impact due to lower emissions.”

    The new ruminant feed mill is designed to produce twice as much as the current milling capacity and will be able to produce feeds at a rate of 20 tons per hour.

    The pellet mill capacity is designed to produce 10 tons per hour and thus, the mill will be able to produce more than 400 tons of ruminant feeds per day with an annual theoretical capacity of approximately 140 000 tons.

    Currently the old plant only produces 70 000 tons per year.

    Collard said complaints have been received that as soon drought hits enough feed cannot be supplied.

    Providing some statistics Collard said that there are currently 2.9 million cattle in Namibia, 2.6 million sheep and 1.9 million goats.

    He said that Feedmaster envisages having a model available that will enhance their business and make it more profitable.

    “We are an input cost for the farmer, having a product available of superior quality that might be more expensive, but the output will be better.”

    He added that world leading industrial processing, conveying, mixing and milling equipment with lower noise and dust pollution levels will enhance the working environment and will further improve the health and safety of employees.

    Feedmaster is the leading animal feed manufacturer in Namibia, and was founded on 27 June 1983. Feedmaster is a full subsidiary of Namib Mills. With Namib Mills investing in a wheat mill during 1986, a wider range of feed products were developed and manufactured with motorised mixing equipment. Feedmaster and his subsidiary Veekos in Upington South Africa, have grown to an animal feeds business with annual sales in excess of 160 000 tons, and an annual turnover in the order of N$800 million.

    The Feedmaster feed mill on the farm Okapuka for the production of monogastric animal feeds, came into production during November 2013.

    ELLANIE SMIT

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    US teen, 15, tried to kill the PopeUS teen, 15, tried to kill the Pope A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty on Monday to a plot allegedly inspired by the Islamic State group to kill Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to the United States.

    The US Justice Department said Santos Colon, 15 years old at the time, sought to recruit a sniper to shoot the pope as he celebrated mass in Philadelphia on 27 September 2015. Colon also allegedly planned to set off explosives.

    But the teen unwittingly recruited an undercover FBI agent for the job, and was arrested quietly 12 days before the event.

    “Colon engaged someone he believed would be the sniper, but in reality was an undercover FBI employee. Colon engaged in target reconnaissance with an FBI confidential source and instructed the source to purchase materials to make explosive devices,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

    Court documents said Colon sought to carry out the act in support of the Islamic State group and that he had used the adopted name Ahmad Shakoor.

    In a plea bargain with prosecutors, Colon, now 17, agreed to forego trial and plead guilty as an adult to one charge of providing material support to a terror group.

    With the deal, prosecutors dropped three other charges filed against him as a juvenile.

    Court documents said the charges were in relation to the Islamic State group, which Washington has designated a foreign terrorist organisation.

    But there were no details on how Colon became interested in the group and if or how he communicated with them.

    Pope Francis celebrated mass for tens of thousands of followers in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the historic east coast city to cap a week-long visit for the World Meeting of Families

    Colon's home is in Lindenwold, New Jersey, just east of Philadelphia.

    Colon faces a maximum of 15 years in prison but sentencing would likely be held off until 2021 while he undergoes psychiatric treatment in a secure facility.

    In a plea statement, Colon acknowledged having been a patient in a mental institution in the past.

    NAMPA/AFP

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    Attack in Russia was retributionAttack in Russia was retributionSt Petersburg metro blast suspect likely born in central Asia Authorities believe that the St Petersburg bombing on Monday may have been in retribution for Moscow's military action in Syria. A blast in a St Petersburg train carriage on Monday that killed 14 people and wounded 49 was probably carried out by a Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan, authorities from the predominantly Muslim central Asian state said on Tuesday.

    The explosion was a suspected suicide bombing by a perpetrator with ties to radical Islamists, Russia's Interfax news agency cited a law enforcement source as saying late on Monday. A spokesman for the Kyrgyz GKNB security service identified the suspect as Akbarzhon Jalilov, born in the city of Osh in 1995, but provided no other details.

    Russia has been on particular alert against attacks on its soil in reprisal for its military intervention in Syria, where Moscow's forces have been supporting troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Islamic State group has repeatedly threatened revenge attacks.

    If it is confirmed that the bomber was linked to radical Islamists, some sections of Russian society could see it as proof that Moscow's decision to intervene in Syria has made civilians into targets.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

    Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic of six million, is a close political ally of Moscow and hosts a Russian military airbase.

    Late on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the site of the blast, which made a huge hole in the side of a carriage and blew of the door, with metal wreckage strewn across the platform.

    Passengers were seen hammering at the windows of one closed carriage after the train had pulled into the Sennaya Ploshad station at around 02:40 (11:40 GMT).

    Russian TV said many had suffered lacerations from glass shards and metal, the force of the explosion amplified by the confines of the carriage and the tunnel.

    St Petersburg television showed footage of the corpse of a bearded man they said was the perpetrator. The man resembled footage of a man captured on closed circuit television who Russian media said was a suspect.

    Officials said they were treating the blast as an act of terrorism, but there was no official confirmation of any link to Islamist radicals.

    The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said an explosive device had been found at another station, hidden in a fire extinguisher, but had been defused.

    Authorities closed all St Petersburg metro stations. The Moscow metro said it was taking unspecified additional security measures in case of an attack there.

    The blast raised security fears beyond Russian frontiers. France, which has itself suffered a series of attacks, announced additional security measures in Paris.

    NAMPA/REUTERS

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Tremors in the region
  • Tremors in the regionTremors in the region A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck Botswana on Monday, US seismologists said, with the tremor felt in several neighbouring countries.

    The epicentre of the quake, which hit at 19:40, was 238 km northwest of Botswana's capital Gaborone, the US Geological Survey said.

    It struck at a relatively shallow depth of 11 km, and rumbled throughout the capital for about 30 seconds, an AFP correspondent said.

    No reports on damages were immediately available.

    Two buildings in central Johannesburg were evacuated after a tremor was felt over large parts of the country on Monday evening.

    The tremor was felt in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Klerksdorp - the epicentre of another quake on Monday morning.

    Johannesburg emergency services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said the tremor was felt around 19:45 on Monday evening. A building in Bree Street, and another at the intersection of Kruis and Commissioner streets, were evacuated as a safety precaution.

    No injuries were reported. Emergency services were on the scene.

    Residents of Gaborone reported feeling a strong tremor. Crockery was broken and pictures fell off walls. One resident reported all the dogs in the neighbourhood began howling.

    This follows an earlier tremor on Monday morning when residents of Klerksdorp, North West, and surrounding towns were woken up by a tremor.

    The Botswana quake was also felt in several cities in South Africa as well as in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, several hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre, witnesses said.

    “The bed started shaking, it was very scary, I didn't know what was going on,” a resident of Durban, on the southeast coast of South Africa, told the News24 agency.



    NAMPA/AFP

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    Mugabe wheelchair proof he is unfitMugabe wheelchair proof he is unfit Zimbabwean opposition politicians have reportedly said that a wheelchair that was given as a gift by Cabinet ministers to President Robert Mugabe was proof that the nonagenarian was “too old and unfit” to rule.

    A group of Cabinet bought President Robert Mugabe a 'mobile chair' Monday, state media reported.

    The chair, along with a nine-carat gold watch, were described as belated birthday presents. They were presented to the veteran leader at State House Monday morning.

    The 'mobile chair' gift drew sniggers on social media with some users describing the gesture as cheeky and suggestive by a cabinet likely equally exasperated by the veteran leader's refusal to retire.

    Others recalled Mugabe's wife, Grace, declaring that he would continue to work even if that meant using a wheelbarrow or a wheelchair to get to the office.

    Mugabe, reportedly struggling with poor health associated with old age, turned 93 in February this year with his Zanu-PF party organising a million-dollar celebration bash at Matopos near Bulawayo.

    The initial ZBC online report said Mugabe was presented with a “special mobile chair” but this was later changed to “special massage chair” perhaps after the social media chuckles.

    According to the State broadcaster, Mugabe thanked his ministers for the birthday gifts, saying they were a “manifestation of the team spirit which should always prevail at all times in the delivery of services to the nation”.

    But critics said it confirmed that old age had taken its toll on the Zanu-PF leader who turned 93 in February.

    According to New Zimbabwe.com, Movement for Democratic Change Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora said that the gift was an indication that the nonagenarian was no longer fit to continue ruling the Southern African country.

    “The special chair is a clear admission that Mugabe is now physically and mentally unfit and we can no longer allow him to govern. He should simply resign,” Mwonzora was quoted as saying.

    Zapu spokesperson Iputhule Maphose concurred, saying that the veteran leader should “simply resign”.

    Mugabe has been at the helm of the country for the past 37 years.

    His ruling Zanu-PF party has endorsed him to be the party's presidential candidate at next year's polls tentatively set for July.

    NEWS24

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Libyan camps are hell
  • Libyan camps are hellLibyan camps are hellMSF representative urges immediate removal Detention camps in Libya are under the spotlight as MSF chief labels them human warehouses where people are traded and extorted. African migrants languishing in Libyan detention camps need to be “got out of there” as soon as possible, a senior aid official who has just visited some of them said Monday.

    Arjan Hehenkamp, the director-general of the Dutch branch of charity Doctors without Borders (MSF), told reporters in Rome he had been shocked by the squalid, oppressive conditions he had witnessed in Libya.

    “These detention centres are essentially human warehouses,” he said of the camps ostensibly under the authority of Libya's government of national unity, but in reality frequently controlled by different militia groups, with whom MSF has to negotiate access to provide basic medical services.

    “People are abused, used, traded, extorted,” he said.

    European efforts to stem the flow of mainly African migrants travelling from Libya to Italy have recently focused on trying to get more of them repatriated to their countries of origin directly from the camps, while also trying to block their arrival in Libya.

    Italy has agreed to try to bolster the Libyan coastguard so it can intercept and turn back boats leaving Libya.

    And on Sunday Rome announced a deal with dozens of rival tribes in southern Libya on securing the southern border of the vast state.

    But Hehenkamp said Libya in its current state could not be part of the solution.

    “People (in the camps) have lost any form of control, they are at the mercy of their captors,” he said.

    “They can't talk but their eyes are pleading. After that, you only have one thing in mind: 'get them out of there, get them the heck out of there, let them escape'.”

    He added: “There is a necessity for a humanitarian evacuation for anyone who is a migrant in Libya, regardless of how and why they came in the first place.”

    Hehenkamp also voiced doubts about the possibility of organising large-scale voluntary repatriations.

    “To call it voluntary is a mockery. On the other hand, anything else is probably better than staying in the detention camps,” he said.

    “They should be brought to places where they can be assisted, where they can recover, where there is a government with the capacity to take care (of them).”



    NAMPA/AFP

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Shot of the day
  • Shot of the dayShot of the day SAVED: A thirty one year old animal lover in Blisna, some 20 km’s north of Montenegro’s capital Podorica took in two orphaned bear cubs, named Masha and Brundo, pictured playing at the family property at the village some 20 kilometres north of Montenegro’s capital Podgorica. This is a temporary arrangement so that they can grow up in conditions resembling the wild. Their mother was without doubt killed by a hunter. Photo: NAMPA/AFP

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Selective outrage must fall
  • Selective outrage must fallSelective outrage must fall The events unfolding in neighbouring South Africa over the last few days have not gone unnoticed in our country and many have attempted to offer some form of perspective on the political situation on the ground. From an economic point of view, South Africa's economic difficulties, compounded by the recent junk status downgrading by the S&P global ratings agency, are placing Namibia's economy at a crossroads. So Namibia is basically catching the flu, because of big brother South Africa's sneeze. The firing of finance minister Pravin Gorhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas following a cabinet reshuffle by South African president Jacob Zuma has had a devastating effect on our neighbour's economy. The South African crisis has placed Zuma at the centre of the storm, with several civil society groupings and opposition parties holding mass protests against the head of state demanding his resignation. As expected, campaigns aimed at getting rid of Zuma appear to be well supported by the mainstream mass media, while there is hectic activity on social media platforms with specific calls for South Africans to take to the streets en masse. Hashtags such as #SouthAfricaMustRise, #ZumaMustFall and #BlackMonday are trending on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. The #BlackMonday campaign, however, backfired, creating more racial division than support. While many have shown their collective anger with the country's political situation, some have boycotted the protests arguing that the minority white have always turned a blind eye to socio-economic protests initiated by the black community. Issues surrounding service delivery, racial injustices and poverty, as well as high levels of inequality have led to fractured societies in Namibia and South Africa.

    The time is now to demand equality and justice for all instead of demonstrating only whenever our privileges are threatened. If the white and middle class folks are serious about making the two countries great, they should start by adding their voices to the common struggle for social justice, and not only when it suits them. To this we say selective outrage must fall!

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    Taxi drivers should not charge N$2Taxi drivers should not charge N$2 The president of the Namibian Transport and Taxi Union (NTTU), Werner Januarie, has called on taxi drivers not to increase taxi fares to N$12 until the union gets a response from the Ministry of Works and Transport.

    The plea follows incidences of taxi drivers who are already charging the proposed fare to passengers in Windhoek on Sunday and Monday. “We want to put it on record that the N$12 has not been approved and we disapprove of drivers charging customers the additional N$2. They must wait until such a time that it has been approved by the ministry,” said Januarie

    Januarie has called on the Minister of Works and Transport, Alpheus !Naruseb, to consider seeking the opinion of all stakeholders regarding the fare increment the union is requesting. “All stakeholders - especially all major stakeholders - must be consulted and not just one union’s request,” said Januarie. He suggested that the ministry consults commuters and investigates whether they will be able to afford the cab fare increase as requested. “The biggest component which has been neglected is the commuters and the clients themselves. Does the fare suit their pockets? They must consult all stakeholders,” said Januarie.

    He says taxi drivers are tarnishing the reputation of the union and therefore should not charge the extra amount until an approval from the ministry is issued. “They are actually busy tarnishing the image of the organisation and we are very unhappy about it. They must please just be patient. There is no approval from our side and even the ministry and the taxi drivers should remain with the current N$10 fare,” pleaded Januarie

    He added that the price hike is driven purely by operational and economic reasons. “The price of fuel has gone up several times and our operational costs also went up and that was one of the reasons we considered the N$2 increment,” said Januarie.

    Shona Ngava

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Living on the periphery
  • Living on the peripheryLiving on the peripheryPeople with disabilities need more than physical access By all accounts, Namibia has good laws and regulations in place for people living with disabilities but implementation, lack of awareness and funding, remain the central challenges. People living with disabilities in Namibia remain one of the most marginalised groups in society and experts agree that the country is not “disability friendly”.

    Although there are good laws and policies in place, implementation is sluggish worsening the country's record on being inclusive to citizens living with disability.

    A Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) report, based on the 2011 census, found that people with disabilities “still endure the worst forms of social stigma in their communities, with many being hidden by their family members because according to some beliefs, deformation is a shame.”

    The report highlighted the worrying status quo that people with disabilities “are typically overlooked in Namibia” and that only a third of people with disabilities receive the disability grant.

    Moreover, the country's overall social environment is unfriendly towards these citizens, with layman language often still discriminatory and mocking.

    Dr Cynthy Haihambo Ya Otto, head of the educational, physiology and inclusive education faculty at the University of Namibia explained that words like 'crippled' and 'wheel-chair bound' are terms that focus on the negative aspects and overshadow people's abilities and potential.

    Many worry that people and children with disabilities are absent from conversations, debates and initiatives centred on boosting overall employment, education, health and furthermore, vulnerable members of society, even though those living with disabilities, are denied equal opportunities and support.

    The 2011 NSA report found that close to 100 000 persons live with a disability in the country, but critics have pointed out that the census questionnaire did not address people with Down Syndrome or autism, which casts doubt on the actual figures.

    “When they knocked on my door in 2011, not a single question was asked about disability even though my youngest daughter has Down's. It left me wondering how many households were skipped in the survey and how reliable the data it has produced,” a concerned parent told Namibian Sun.



    Time for change

    Recently, the department of disability affairs in the Office of the President advertised a call for quotations for consultants to help review and propose amendments to key disability laws and policies, as well as asking for a number of further studies on persons living with disabilities.

    While experts and parents applaud these initiatives, they said government should prioritise time and money on improving the implementation of existing laws and broadening overall awareness and inclusivity.

    “We are definitely not yet a disability-friendly society. We still have low expectations and look down on people with disabilities,” Haihambo Ya Otto, said.

    Kim Koch, an educator and mother of a son living with a disability, and the founder of JJ's Care Centre in Walvis Bay which provides education and support to children with disabilities, said that in Namibia, “pensioners have more benefits than disabled persons”.

    She said society lacks awareness on relevant issues and challenges, including the types of disabilities people live with as well as limited access to quality education and health plans.

    “This shows that people with disabilities are not treated equally. They are not on the agenda.” Elsa Murangi, director of the Walvis Bay Sunshine centre says.

    “We think that persons in Namibia, especially the children who are living in the poor areas of the country, are one of the most side-lined groups in the country,” she said.

    She added that while the laws are in place “there is a huge need to evaluate and follow up on how the laws are functioning in practice. There is a very big gap between theory and practice.”

    An expert, who has worked closely with people and children living with disabilities, said Namibia does a great job in recruiting consultants to draft policies. However, “these policies pile up in cupboards and are not really being implemented to serve their purpose.”

    He said that “policy makers talk too much and do the minimum. They do not ensure that the policies are implemented.” In his view “no progress has been made so far to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access and opportunities” in Namibia.

    A mother whose child has a developmental disorder said the “instruments are in place, but the implementation thereof is difficult or non-existent, due to financial constraints or employment of the wrong people.”

    She added however that, many people are heavily dependent on government and society in general should also shoulder increased responsibility to help improve the conditions under which many people living with disability live.

    “Government is expected to do everything. People are slack in organising themselves and doing something.”



    Limited opportunities

    Apart from the social stigma that is still widespread in the country, including access to buildings which is a requirement of the United Nations Convention on Persons with Disabilities, to which Namibia is a signatory, Haihambo Ya Otto says that Namibia's stance towards people with disabilities is limiting their overall chances of establishing secure, respectable and fruitful lives.

    “We really disable people by limiting their access, not only physically to buildings, education programmes and so, but also emotionally by not believing in them, by staring at them, excluding them and depriving them of information and belittling them.”

    She said while government has put people with disabilities on the agenda, as is evidenced from the various disability departments and councils, laws and policies, these people “remain at the margins of society”.

    “In schools, most children with disabilities are not enabled to succeed, and they are exposed to teaching and learning strategies that work for the typical learners when some are far from being the typical learner,” Haihambo Ya Otto said.

    Murangi explained that in her experience, many parents struggle to cope with the demands of a child with special needs, and this is worsened by the lack of access to support services.

    “Many mothers struggle to cope with the stigma, unemployment, lack of skills. Many are blamed and told it is a curse. They are not getting help. Because of limited grants, these families are not able to cover the basic needs.”

    She said children from poor families are hardest.



    Inclusion

    “We desperately need a focus on implementation of real measures, facilities and support infrastructures for people with disabilities in this country,” Eline van der Linden, chair of the Down Syndrome Association of Namibia (DSAN) said.

    She said that Namibia still needs a lot more before the country can be labelled as inclusive to persons with disabilities.

    “People with challenges are often excluded due to lack of access to basic services and facilities.”

    She said that the issue of inclusion involves more than accessibility to buildings, but should focus on ensuring equal access to information, education and more.

    The focus on broad inclusion is weak currently, Van der Linden explained, pointing out that when the state pension was increased in 2014, the disability grant for minors and adults were not part of the initiative.

    The disability grants for minors is currently N$200 per month and for adults N$650.

    Moreover, access to speech and occupational therapists, as well as physical therapists, is restricted, if at all available.

    “That is what money should be spent on if and when the government puts its weight behind the plight of people with disabilities. Our children can live a healthy, active and happy life, with necessary support.”

    Murangi added that a critical problem is children in the education sector.

    “There is a big need for knowledge in Namibia on how to treat children with special needs in an inclusive way, both in kindergartens and in schools.”



    The Future

    For many of those working with children living with disabilities, the crucial issue is access to and quality education as well as job opportunities.

    The options for parents wanting to send their children to school's that cater for various disabilities, physical and mental, are limited.

    “There is a huge demand for special needs learners to be accommodated in school and also a need for after-school training facilities,” a source with experience in education for people with disabilities said.

    He added that the issue of job security is another key point that is rarely addressed.

    “We have more and more students with disabilities who go through programmes and graduate. But the majority of them face difficulties finding employment, not because they are not qualified, but because of the myths that they will not cope with their jobs,” Unam's Haihambo Ya Otto explained.

    Koch said every school should offer classes that cater for the needs of children with disabilities, allowing children with disabilities to interact daily with their counterparts at school.

    Moreover, she said the country should focus on providing increased job opportunities to people with disabilities.

    “There are many people capable of working, but they are not given an opportunity. Just because someone is in a wheelchair, does not mean that they can't do the job.”



    The numbers

    Last year, the Namibia Statistics Agency launched a report on people living with disabilities, based on the 2011 census, which showed that persons with disabilities in Namibia increased from close to 43 000 in 1991 to 98 500 in 2011.

    The report found that the number of children with disabilities aged zero to four-years-old that were not attending an Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme had increased from 3 359 in 2001, to 5 135 in 2011.

    Moreover, 28.9% of persons with disabilities, five years and older, had never attended school.

    The highest proportion of persons with disabilities with no formal education was people living with blindness and visual impairments.

    A total of 306 households in Namibia were headed by children with disabilities in 2011, and a total of 175 households were headed by orphans with disabilities, an increase of 68 households since 2001.

    JANA-MARI SMITH

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    'Chinese love and adore wildlife''Chinese love and adore wildlife' Chinese deputy minister of foreign affairs Zhang Ming has announced that a new ambassador to Namibia will soon be seconded.

    He also expressed his regret about the large number of poaching incidents linked to Chinese nationals in Namibia.

    He led a delegation that visited State House early this week.

    On poaching incidents where Chinese nationals were involved, he said: “We regret the involvement of Chinese nationals, although such are few, we condemn their behaviour. The Chinese people love and adore wildlife.”

    Ming maintained that his government supported attempts to curb poaching, saying: “The Chinese government appreciates policies set up by the Namibian government to support wildlife. We will provide help and support in the realm of our possibility.”

    Commenting on Namibia-China relations, Ming said: “China is satisfied with the state of relations.

    We are standing ready to strengthen relations.”

    Geingob maintained that good relations would continue. “Namibia's policies towards China have not changed. We would like to continue the cooperation in many fields,” he said.

    Ming also said that a lot of development strides had been made, reflecting on his first visit to Windhoek 12 years ago.

    “Namibia has made considerable progress since independence. It is my second visit to Namibia in 12 years and I have witnessed many changes, especially on the infrastructure front, since my last visit.”

    Following former Chinese ambassador to Namibia Xin Shunkang's recall to China due to health reasons, Ming maintained that a new diplomatic announcement would be made soon and said it was regrettable that Shunkang had to be recalled.

    OGONE TLHAGE

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    Minors fall prey to violent crimeMinors fall prey to violent crime Since the end of last week a baby has been murdered, reportedly by his own father, while four other children have been raped, allegedly by family members.

    Two children drowned and another was electrocuted.

    In a shocking incident at Gobabis on Thursday, a three-month-old boy's head was allegedly smashed into the ground by his father after he had an argument with the baby's mother.

    According to the police the incident happened at Canaan at the Epako township.

    The police say the father was apparently involved in a relationship with the mother and when she decided to end the relationship he could not accept it.

    The father then grabbed the boy from his mother and smashed his head into the ground.

    The baby sustained head injuries and was rushed to the Gobabis State Hospital. Based on the outcome of the doctor's examination arrangements were made to transfer the baby to Windhoek Central Hospital but he died shortly afterwards. The baby was identified as Oubelo Mora. The 23-year-old father was arrested.

    In another incident, a three-year-old boy was apparently raped by a 30-year-old man at Karasburg at the weekend.

    The incident occurred on 1 April at about 16:00 in the Westerkim residential area. According to the police it is alleged that the suspect is the boy's uncle. The man was arrested.

    At Katima Mulilo, an 11-year-old was girl was allegedly raped by her stepfather sometime in March. The rape was only reported on Monday.

    It is alleged that the crime was discovered by a nurse at a hospital when the victim sought medical attention. The suspect was arrested.

    In yet another rape incident a 15-year-old boy was raped by another 15-year-old boy. According to the police the two are brothers.

    The incident occurred at the Ndama location in Rundu and was reported this weekend.

    On Sunday at Okapundja village near Opuwo, it is alleged that an Angolan cattle herder raped an 11-year-old girl after grabbing her and dragging her to his room. The suspect was arrested.

    Last week another 11-year-old girl, identified as Christina Alberta Beukes, was electrocuted at Tseiblaagte in Keetmanshoop. The incident happened at her house. She was allegedly found holding onto a chicken pen where she was electrocuted. She was rushed to the Keetmanshoop State Hospital where she died the following day.

    Also on Thursday last week a four-year-old boy drowned in a well at Okaleke village in the Omusati Region.

    The boy was apparently coming from Lika Kindergarten. He was identified as Thomas Nambili.

    In another drowning incident that occurred on 2 April at about 10:00 at Ompangela village, Hilma Kaunapawa Imvula, a six-month-old, drowned in a bucket of water.

    ELLANIE SMIT

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Pilot erred before crash
  • Pilot erred before crashPilot erred before crashSwiss flyer 'was nervous' The official report on a glider crash in southern Namibia in December 2015 has found that the flight should have been stopped before the pilot could take off. The Swiss pilot who was killed in a glider accident on Christmas Eve 2015 was acting nervously and had made mistakes before take-off from Bitterwasser Lodge.

    His body was discovered two days later at a farm west of Uhlenhorst.

    This is according to the final accident report that has been released more than a year after the 46-year-old Swiss national, Maurizio Ivano Bofchetty Zurich, was killed in the glider accident.

    The cause of the accident was identified as “loss of control”.

    The Ventus glider took off from Bitterwasser flight centre on 24 December 2015 for a private gliding flight.

    The pilot was the only occupant and he was expected back at the Bitterwasser airfield before sunset the same day, but did not return. The pilot did not file a flight plan.

    His absence was immediately reported to the authorities and a search was initiated, which yielded no results. The glider was found by a farmer on the farm Stryfontein at 07:45 on December 26.

    It appeared that the glider had struck the ground in a near vertical attitude at high speed and had disintegrated upon impact.

    According to the report, the pilot helper observed on the day of the flight that the pilot was not comfortable with the flight. He noticed that the pilot was wearing his parachute the wrong way around and the helper had to correct it.

    “The interview conducted with the pilot helper revealed that the pilot did not look ready to fly because he was making some mistakes and at some point was shivering, but when he was asked if he was okay and ready to continue with the flight he answered yes,” says the report.

    The report says the pilot helper was not empowered to halt the flight, nor was there any procedure for him to do so.

    It also points out that the autopsy was carried out by a qualified medical doctor but it was the view of the investigation that the autopsy should have been performed by an aviation doctor who understands and can interpret the effects of such a crash on a human body.

    The report says although the pilot had flown several glider aircraft, no information on his introductory training, or his flying experience in that type of aircraft, was listed.

    It was recommended that the Bitterwasser flight centre should set up a training programme and procedures that will enable the glider helper to identify safety concerns and report them immediately to the flight operation office so that a professional assessment can be made before a flight, if needed.

    The report also recommends that the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority should extend the mandate of its designated examiners in aviation medicine to carry out autopsies when required in an aircraft accident.

    ELLANIE SMIT

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    Man leaves N$97 000 behind in shopMan leaves N$97 000 behind in shop A man claims to have lost N$97 000 after leaving the money in the parcel room of a Mariental supermarket on Tuesday afternoon.

    The complainant, a 44-year-old resident of Takarania informal settlement in Mariental, allegedly withdrew the amount from Standard Bank because he wanted to open an account at First National Bank.

    According to Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi, the man stopped at Shoprite to get something to eat before going to FNB. He allegedly left the bag containing the cash at the shop's parcel room and was given a numbered ticket, but lost it.

    Kanguatjivi said someone else allegedly picked up the ticket and claimed the bag from the parcel room.

    “It's a dark story. How can someone in a right frame of mind leave a parcel with such an amount in a security parcel room of retail shop and go to buy something,” he remarked.

    “I wonder how the bag full of N$100 or N$200 notes must have been bulging in the parcel he gave for safekeeping,” he said.

    The police spokesman said the police were investigating the matter but no arrest had been made.

    FRED GOEIEMAN

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  • 04/04/17--16:00: Two Chinese granted bail
  • Two Chinese granted bailTwo Chinese granted bailCharged with possession of rhino horns An outdated law stipulating lenient sentences for wildlife smuggling has led to the granting of bail to two alleged rhino-horn smugglers. The two Chinese nationals who were arrested in January for possession of rhino horns worth more than N$400 000 were granted bail of N$300 000 each yesterday.

    Yonghui Lu, 41, and Nan Chen, 29, appeared before Magistrate Venessa Stanley in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court and the case was postponed to 21 June for further investigation.

    The two were charged with possession of and dealing in controlled wildlife products.

    Their lawyers, Kadhila Amoomo and Mbushandje Ntinda, asked the court to grant their clients bail, arguing that they were not a flight risk.

    After summing up all the evidence presented during the bail hearing Stanley said the charges against the two were not punishable by a direct prison sentence and she therefore granted them bail.

    The two men were arrested on 19 January around 22:00 at Berghoff Flats in Eros, Windhoek, after a joint operation by the Namibian Police and Windhoek City Police. In their possession, the police found two rhino horns valued at N$404 000.

    Items found alongside the rhino horns were described as a “rhino poaching kit”, including hunting rifles, bullets and other items.

    The defence lawyers argued that the police could not prove that their clients had been in possession of the rhino horns stashed in the flat. According to them, several people had access to the flat.

    Prosecutor Rowan van Wyk unsuccessfully opposed the granting of bail on the grounds that the two men faced serious charges and the State had a strong case against them.

    This came just days after the minister of environment and tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, had tabled the Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Amendment Bill.

    This amendment provides for hefty fines and lengthy prison sentences for possession of and trading in controlled wildlife products. Foreigners found guilty of committing these crimes will not be allowed back into Namibia after paying the fines or serving their prison terms.

    ELLANIE SMIT

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