Namibia: The Push for a New Empowerment Bill
A new government indigenization and economic empowerment bill in Namibia has many white business owners pondering whether to leave the country or take court action. The Equitable Economic Empowerment Bill, if approved, would require white-owned businesses to sell 25 percent ownership and cede at least 50 percent of management positions to “previously disadvantaged peoples” (PDPs).
Last month, Namibia started public consultations on the new bill, which would also prohibit white males from selling such ownership to their white wives, regardless of whether they are PDPs or not.
A presiding council, made up of selected Cabinet members as well as six additional appointees, would regulate the selection of companies, sales, and transfer of shares. The council would also have the authority to seize documents and equipment from companies in cases where improper conduct is alleged and to close all businesses not in compliance if the bill is passed.
Opponents fear that if approved the bill would cripple the Namibian economy, pushing businesses to seek ‘friendlier’ investment destinations. Legal consultations revealed low prospects of success for those seeking to challenge the bill’s constitutionality in court.
Yet, Namibian officials defend the bill, saying it does not contravene the constitution and that other countries have had success in implementing similar laws.