BUSI­NESS White busi­ness un­cer­tainty as Namibia drafts new em­pow­er­ment bill

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - OS­CAR NKALA

GABORONE: White- owned busi­nesses in Namibia are pon­der­ing whether to leave the coun­try or stay and take court ac­tion to fight a new govern­ment in­di­geni­sa­tion and eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment bill which, if ap­proved in its present form, would re­quire them to sell 25 per­cent own­er­ship to “pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged peo­ples”.

L a s t mont h , Na mi b i a started pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the New Eq­ui­table Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment Bill, which would re­quire all white-owned busi­nesses to cede at least 50 per­cent of man­age­ment po­si­tions.

The bill also pro­hibits white males from sell­ing such own­er­ship to their wives re­gard­less of whether they are pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple or not and pro­hibits ben­e­fi­cia­ries from sell­ing any por­tion of their busi­nesses to white males.

It calls for a coun­cil con­sist- ing of se­lected cab­i­net mem­bers and six other peo­ple to pre­side over the se­lec­tion of com­pa­nies and the sale and trans­fer of shares. This coun­cil would be em­pow­ered to seize doc­u­ments and equip­ment from com­pa­nies in cases where im­proper con­duct was al­leged and to close busi­nesses deemed to have failed to com­ply with the law.

Top Namib­ian in­vest­ment risk an­a­lyst and con­sul­tant Eben De Klerk said many white busi­ness peo­ple were con­sid­er­ing leav­ing the coun­try for friend­lier in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tions. He said there was a low prospect of suc­cess for a court chal­lenge to the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the bill.

“We were ad­vised that although a court chal­lenge is pos­si­ble, it is more likely the court will re­spond with a fall­back ar­gu­ment to the ef­fect that the bill is still in draft for­mat, which means that the court can­not make an or­der at this con­sul­ta­tive stage.”

Le­gal con­sul­tants had also warned although the Namib­ian Com­pa­nies Act pro­vides sev­eral safe­guards against ex­pro­pri­a­tion, this was no guar­an­tee of se­cu­rity as the govern­ment could amend and re-align this act with the new em­pow­er­ment law.

De Klerk said if ap­proved, the bill would crip­ple the Namib­ian econ­omy. He said busi­nesses pre­ferred Mau­ri­tius be­cause they found its flat tax- ation, high GDP and cor­rup­tion-free busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment more at­trac­tive to the “nonen­abling” le­gal, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment in Namibia.

How­ever, the of­fice of the Namib­ian prime min­is­ter de­fended the bill, say­ing it did not con­tra­vene the con­sti­tu­tion. Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the PM’s of­fice An­drew Ndishishi said many coun­tries had suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented sim­i­lar laws. – ANA

Eben De Klerk

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