Namibia: The Time to Act Is Now


It is really invigorating to read the comments of the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and Namibian Minister of Foreign Affairs Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who this week correctly highlighted the need to 'work harder and implement' the myriad agreements Namibia and South Africa have chalked up since 1994.

At 52 they are a significant number of memoranda, perhaps comparable only to 32 agreements that South Africa has with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Establishing a Bi-National Commission is, in itself, a milestone in the diplomatic relationship between the two neighbouring countries with South Africa making Namibia one of the few countries with which it has such a high level of diplomatic engagement, adding to the likes of DRC, Nigeria, China and Sweden.

Yet, despite the good intentions, the implementation of the texts in these memoranda has been lacking, and the consequence of non-implementation has often slowed the operational wheel of the two countries, be it in bilateral relations with other countries such as of the European Union, or on the rolling out of specific country programmes that tend to have a bearing on neighbouring countries.

A signed document alone is not sufficient in a world so integrated, so globalised, not to mention that the current mantra on the African continent is regional integration. Integration requires countries to get their ducks in a row. Neighbouring countries do not only have to agree on the approaches, procedures and systems but they have to make those systems workable in a practical way that is mutually beneficial to all. This requires testing and correcting whatever is not in sync. It requires technocratic work that goes beyond the political will, reflected in the text of memoranda of understanding and agreements signed by the politicians.

For it is only then that the ordinary people experience the good intentions of these agreements, the very citizens the memoranda are meant to benefit.

Indeed the huge volumes of the agreements between South Africa and Namibia only serve to remind of the kith and kin relationship between the two countries. Perhaps no other countries within SADC share such a bond of interlinked and interdependent economies, and political, social, historical and cultural elements as Namibia and South Africa. Thus, correctly so, the newly launched Bi-National Commission should seek to elevate existing cordial relations to 'a new level of strategic cooperation'.

This forum elevates the relationship between the countries from one of courtship to one in which the two partners are exclusively dedicated and committed to each other's wellbeing, as it were. Gone is the bi-annual platform, in its place the forum that meets yearly to enable efficient coordination and implementation of bilateral agreements, and commitment between both governments, as well as to identify areas of convergence in their engagements, at both regional and international level.