Home affairs’ motivation to do away with time change

Home affairs’ motivation to do away with time change

The consideration range from safety and security especially for school going children and workers who commence work early, energy saving, business activities, leisure opportunity and entertainment, the situation of the Zambezi region.

As the house is fully aware we have a Namibian Time Act, Act No 3 of 1994, which provides for what is now commonly known as “winter time” and “summer time” for Namibia. I will refer to this Act as “the 1994 Act.”
For the benefit of the house, I would like to set out the process the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration followed that led to this move to repeal the 1994 Act.

The house may recall that in October 2015 Cabinet authorised the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration to conduct public consultation on the 1994 Act. This was after certain sectors of our economy raised that the time change impact adversely on their activities, be it commercial, leisure or academic.

I can report that the Zambezi Regions gets completely cut of when the rest of the country shifts to wintertime. Those with secessionist’s motives have used this fact to propagate that the region belongs somewhere else than to Namibia.
That the change to wintertime affects border posts, as travellers have to wait for at least an hour for the border to open. Due to these claims the ministry approached Cabinet for authorisation to conduct public consultation on the Act.

I can report that consultations were held by addressing letters to the ministers of ministries we considered to be substantively affected by the time change, regional governors whom we specifically requested them to also get input from their communities and industries in their specific regions, and captain of the industries such as the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Namibia Sports Commission, Namibia School Sports Union and the Council of Churches of Namibia.

No major stakeholder institutions were left out as the general public was also invited through the print media to make their views known. This could be done via e-mail to an email that was monitored daily, by way of letters addressed tot eh Permanent Secretary.

As expected though not everyone responded. Even some key industries did not submit their input. Be that as it may, I would like to underscore that the exercise was not quantitative but qualitative. We wanted to understand why and not merely get numbers of how many are for and how many are against.

By the extended deadline up to February 2016, about 3,507 views were received as follow; Three thousand, three hundred and ninety six (3,396) individuals, fourteen (14) offices, ministries and agencies, two institutions of higher learning (University of Namibia and Namibia University of Technology and Science), thirty seven (37) other companies and sixty families.

Out of this number of 3,507 three thousand and ninety six (3,096) responded in favour of keeping only summer time as the standard time while three hundred and four (304) were in support of maintaining the summer and winter time.

This process of receiving input commenced in December 2015 and was to be concluded in February 2016. We however continued to receive input way after the deadline to accommodate as many views as possible.
I think it is important to highlight some of the views received. The consideration range from safety and security especially for school going children and workers who commence work early, energy saving, business activities, leisure opportunity and entertainment, the situation of the Zambezi region.

On almost each aspect, arguments were both in favour and against certain consideration.
School going children: One of the main concerns highlighted is the safety and security of school going children. Daylight Saving Time was introduced mainly to accommodate the school going children especially those in rural and informal settlement areas who walk to and from school in the dark during winter. In winter they do this wile it is still dark and this exposes them to crime. The time change improves their safety and security in winter.

In light of the foregoing a proposal was advanced that schools could start an hour later than the time they start now, as is appropriate to the learner population. On the other hand, others argued that both times should be maintained provided that winter time will only be applicable for three months, between June and August, and that schools should have four terms instead of three terms and that the month of May, which has many public holidays, should be made a school holiday.

Safety and security of workers: Those against the time change indicated that they are mindful that many people rely on public transport and others walk to and from workplaces. If the time does not change in winter, employees will go home in the dark, which is unsafe especially for women.

Furthermore, those driving home from work are also prone to road accidents during low visibility conditions. Commuters between towns, for example between Okahandja and Windhoek, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, Ondangwa and Oshakati need time change so they do not travel in the dark.

Business activities: As for business it was widely argued that Namibia loses a lot of business as it operates outside “normal business hours” with the rest of the region, especially South Africa who is our important trading partner. The impact of winter change is said to be an estimated loss of four business hours daily, one hour in the morning, one hour when they go on lunch, one hour when we go for lunch and one hour when they knock off.

Those arguing against were of the view that the world does not use one standard time yet business does not come to a standstill. Namibia does business with countries that are at different time zones. America does business with China while they have at most 13 hours difference. Some sectors argued that as an alternative or as a solution ICT tools must be harnessed for businesses to make up for the time difference.

The situation with Zambezi Region: The Zambezi region does not change time. This makes it difficult to communicate and coordinate daily work with staff members in that region during time change.

Those who argue against the time change made reference to the example of the United States of America that I have alluded to earlier. Different states, like our different regions, may have different times because of the geographical locations. Others indicated however that a small country like ours cannot be compared to America, Moreover our most important trading partner is South Africa.

Energy saving: The day light saving time was introduced to save energy, by turning the lights on one hour later in the summer and maximise on the sunshine. To rebut this it is submitted that daylight saving time does not save energy and therefore has no advantage. The electricity or candle consumption is too excessive for the long evenings, too expensive for the consumer and too sacred to waste.

One of the views received is that with the current time change arrangement Namibia’s peak times do not coincide with that of the region and that this is Namibia’s favour because energy utilities can easily access the power from the region as our peak hours are not aligned with those of other countries in the region. In the event that time changes back to Central African Time (CAT) the Namibian peak hours will be aligned to that of Eskom (South Africa’s energy utility and largest supplier of energy in the region) and the region. This will not only expose us to high time use of tariffs but it will make it difficult for Namibia to access the power due to constrained transmission lines and high demand during peak hours.

Based on statistics of the respondents, which is 97 percent in favour of maintaining the Standard Time of two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2), we shared these outcomes with Cabinet. I must be quick to to add that Cabinet was cautious that only 3,507 have responded. However the majority are in favour of one Standard Time. Therefore Cabinet resolved that Namibia should have summer time as a standard time. Our standard time should therefore bet two hours in advance of the Greenwich Mean Time.

• This is an edited excerpt from the motivational statement by home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana to Parliament this week on the Namibian Time Bill.

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