It’s always interesting to see how our different papers decide to report on an issue, as their takes usually vary. Here’s how some of them reacted to Minister Schlettwein’s asset declaration on Wednesday.headlines

 

 

 

Of Note:

  • Most papers led with the top line figure, the overall amount the Minister is worth
  • The Sun strayed on the side of tastelessness, imo, by printing a picture of the Minister’s house on the front page. Unnecessary.
  • The Patriot immediately asked the central question: will other ministers also declare? Like other papers, it then moved on to the juicy info about the dollar amount the Minister is worth.

 

 

Foreign policy seldom makes headlines in Namibia, but our dealings with North Korea have been making the front pages a lot. No surprise: the revelation that they built us an ammunition factory is a big deal, and the government having to change its public stance (without ever really admitting it) is a juicy story. Anyways, the whole story is a little bit complicated at times, so I wrote an overview for African Arguments:

Pyongyang will be taking heart from the fact that after explaining Mansudae would have to leave the country, the Namibian government later added that they would in fact stay on for few more months. Renovations at the State House had recently begun and, as a minister explained, “we do not want them to leave the renovations hanging just like that”.

You don’t leave old friends hanging just like that either

The full piece is here.

I’ve been doing a bunch of writing for Insight in recent months, here is some of it:

  1. An argument for why Namibia should house Syrian refugees
  2. An assessment of the Harambee Prosperity Plan’s performance early on
  3. A piece asking why political parties get so much control over the regulations governing them
  4. A review of Richard Poplak and Kevin Bloom’s Continental Shift

I understand the magazine is still trying to fix the website, so apologies for the wonky formatting.

 

Update 3: There have been quite a few developments since then. An amended version of the bill passed the National Assembly, then was rejected on principle by the National Council. We haven’t heard an official update about it since. In Insight, I wrote about the negative impact the original bill would have had here, and wrote about how flawed the process of drafting the bill was here.

Update 2: In a post to the AR facebook page, the movement reports back on a meeting with government on earlier today. Included in it is the revelation(claim?) that the Technical Implementation Committee

The restructuring also includes the committee assuming an additional function to deal with amendments of laws and issues related to housing finance. This includes practical implementations of matters like Rent Control Boards and prescribing of Estate Agents tariffs. All these are expected to happen before 31 October 2015.

 

Two things about that. First, it’ll be interesting to see the quality of legislation coming out of this. The Local Authorities Amendment Bill seems rushed and disjointed, and I don’t know if this committee will do better than the ministry. In fact, I’ll have to ponder my opinion on this committee drawing up national policy on land. I’m not sure who’s on it, but it didn’t sound like it would go through regular channels. Verdict’s out. Secondly, on the idea that we will have Rent Control Boards etc mandated by law before 31 October — well, I’m willing to bet a lot of money on that not happening. The NA is wrapping up its business already; the speaker had requested members to submit new bills no later than October 15 because they still have to go to the National Council. So yeah, not going to happen.

Update 1: It appears we weren’t the only ones with these concerns. Today, The Namibian reported that the deputy Minister of Agriculture drew parallels between this law and apartheid legislation.

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A couple of weeks ago Parliament started debating amendments to the Local Authorities Act. Really dry stuff, for the most part, but the draft contained some dynamite provisions regarding new property regulations, probably spurred on by recent political pressure on the administration to do something about the urban land crisis.

Under the law, what will basically happen is this:

  1. urban land will be divided into Namibian zones and open zones. In open zones, foreigners can buy dwellings, but not commercial properties.
  2. Namibian zones are subdivided by income level, and you won’t be allowed to buy land in an area that is classified as being of a lower income as yourself.

The IPPR put out a paper about the laws, with several concerns.

First, kicking out foreigners is great politics, always has been — we identify a scapegoat to blame for causing this crisis (in this case, rich foreigners pricing us out of the housing market) and solve the problem decisively. The first problem is that this is not evidence-based: foreign home-owners are probably a small part of the market, so they didn’t cause the house price crisis, and anyways the law only allows them to buy houses, which definitely won’t help prices for Namibians. Secondly, it could have negative consequences in that a lot of the money Namibia’s economy gets for its economic growth comes from abroad, and this move might discourage foreign investment.

I’m most concerned about the rule dividing Namibians by income. Windhoek is already starkly segregated by economic class, a very visible manifestation of our apartheid past. While there has been some reconfiguration of wealth patterns, the reality is that this wealth segregation is also a de facto segregation by race. Now, the idea behind this provision is that developers won’t go into poor areas and price out lower-income folks. That’s an admirable goal, but the policy won’t help. All it will do is legally mandate the segregation we already have. What we need is a comprehensive affordable housing project to integrate the exclusive Windhoek suburbs. Because poor Namibians certainly can’t afford to buy properties in rich areas anyway, as it stands. So what would happen with this rules is that the rich stay among themselves, and the poor stay what have now become legally designated ghettos. This means those areas would unlikely see an increase in property values, so that home-owners there don’t see an increase in their wealth while the still-exclusive rich areas see property prices (i.e. the wealth of already rich people) go up. Hello inequality.

This might just be unconstitutional on a variety of fronts — check out the full paper here.

  1. “Why Obama blundered by speaking out on LGBTQ rights in Kenya”. Politics is complicated, and saying the right thing can be counterproductive to the goals you want to achieve. The speech didn’t help LGBT rights, it likely made things worse.
  2. Evil But Stupid”. On Seymour Hersh, the War on Terror and journalism. Why did journalists turn on him when he accused the US government of lying?

    given the zeal for secrecy that characterizes Obama’s presidency (to say nothing of its enthusiasm for extrajudicial assassinations), the question becomes: Why isn’t the media more paranoid? What may be irking journalists about Hersh is the way he harks back to an era of heroically paranoid journalismthe kind that once brought down governmentsthat they no longer feel themselves to be living in. It was, after all, the mainstream media that decided to run the Pentagon Papers, and it was the Washington Postthat broke the Watergate story. It was also the press that uncovered the high-level conspiracy to fund the contras in Nicaragua by selling arms to Iran.

  3. “Canon of Taste.”  We put a great deal of effort into preserving and appreciating past masterworks of literature, painting, and music. We should do the same for food.
  4. “Searching for Sugar Daddy.”  A — disturbing, for me — look at the subculture of daddies and babies in the US.

credit: the Villager

credit: the Villager

McHenry Venaani has a tough five years ahead of him.

Sure, he just won a cushy parliamentary seat with all the benefits attached to it. But make no mistake: campaigning is easy, being in Parliament is hard. As Mario Cuomo said in reference to American politics, you “campaign in poetry but govern in prose.” Elections are exciting, but governance is not.

Things will be tough for Venaani because he’ll have to tread a terribly fine line.In his concession speech, he said that “As leader of the official opposition-elect I will keep you on your toes.” But try convincing a party that just won 80% of the vote to let you have a say in decisions. If Venaani wants to have influence over laws, he’ll have to be conciliatory and make friends with Swapo.

But this won’t necessarily help him in the electoral realm, where many supporters want to see a robust opposition giving Swapo trouble. If you’re just going to cooperate with the ruling party, what’s the role of the opposition? The challenge is to strike a perfect balance — keeping them on their toes, as he said, but still cooperating enough to maybe have a say. Those waters are tough to navigate: the party will want to point to a record of achievements to set itself apart from Swapo in the next election, but can’t do anything without Swapo. This is not an enviable position to be in.

 

Randall Munroe of xkcd has this to say about including numbers/statistics in your reporting:

A good rule of thumb might be, “If I added a zero to this number, would the sentence containing it mean something different to me?” If the answer is “no,” maybe the number has no business being in the sentence in the first place.

Many people seem think if they overload their text with figures it’s more  authoritative. It may appear so,  but it won’t be very useful for the reader.  More thoughts on this, and other fun things,  in  this interview.

The former governor of Virginia and his wife, alleged to have taken bribes.  Mark Wilson/Getty Images. Source: New York Times.

The former governor of Virginia and his wife, alleged to have taken bribes.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images. Source: New York Times.

A few days ago, I said I’d start collecting corruption cases from rich countries to show that they are, in many ways, just as corrupt as third world nations. Today I’ll just focus on the U.S., because there’s so much going on there it’ll fill up a post all by itself.
So, let’s jump right in: