Towards a Successful Namibia

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Namibia is part of sub-Saharan Africa, a sub-continent that is lagging far behind, economically and socially. After each independence in the early 1960s, almost all the countries in the sub-continent adopted the one-party rule which placed the interests of the ruling parties and leaders above those of the citizens. In countries such as the Soviet Union, China, North Korea or Cuba, though the one-party dictatorship denied the citizens their fundamental freedoms as well as their civil and political rights, resources were invested in education and health services to promote social and cultural rights. Within a relatively short period of time after foreign or feudal control, real development was evident in these countries. In the one-party countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the preoccupation was to keep the parties and leaders in power indefinitely. Huge amounts of money were used to build party headquarters, to design textile materials bearing heads of the leaders and to form musical bands that composed songs praising the parties and glorifying the leaders. Any dissenting voice was crushed mercilessly. The period between the early 1960s and early 1990s saw thousands of good-quality people being killed, imprisoned, harassed and fleeing their countries, resulting in the severe brain-drain on the sub-continent. Then political opportunists, swindlers and crooks seized the opportunity of pretending as party loyalists and occupied public offices. They immediately went on a rampage of looting state coffers. Some soldiers organized themselves and overthrew their governments so that they too could enrich themselves. This was the beginning of corruption, tribalism and nepotism, incompetence, mismanagement and wastage of public resources on the sub-continent. Sub-Saharan Africa was caught completely unprepared when the wind of democracy started sweeping over the whole world in the early 1990s. To keep themselves in power, the leaders shifted gear from the one-party dictatorship to the current democracy under dominant-party rule. They cunningly came up with impressive constitutions dotted with democratic phrases like periodic elections, respect for human rights, media freedom and partnership with civic organizations. They also produced national development plans (NDPs), adapted the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to their local situations and hired consultants to draft for them Visions 2015, 2020, 2025, 2030, etc. Despite these NDPs and MDGs and visions, real development continues to elude the sub-continent. After all, most of these development plans and goals and visions are cut-and-paste works by consultants: they have not come from the people on the ground. For Namibia to become a success story on the sub-continent is very difficult, but possible. In the first place, it requires political leaders who are guided by the wisdom and aspirations of the citizens. Such leaders would encourage the culture of open discussions among the citizens themselves and between the citizens and their leaders. When President Hifikepunye Pohamba went to attend Sunday service at Engela Lutheran Church in Ohangwena Region, the congregation handed him a memorandum of the issues they would like him to address. These issues were more important to these people than listening to a boring and irrelevant speech prepared in Windhoek. By confining himself to the issues in the memorandum, his visit became relevant and meaningful to the members of the Engela congregation. When the National Assembly Speaker, Theo-Ben Gurirab, went to “bring parliament’ to the south, he entered Kalkrand on a donkey cart, a symbol of humility, vulnerability and servanthood. He did not sport a flower, that silly trademark of Namibian politicians when appearing on public platforms. His whole appearance was simple and acceptable to the impoverished people of neglected Kalkrand who told him in plain language about their daily hardships, including the corrupt behaviour of the local police. Likewise, the impoverished people of Gochas told Theo-Ben all what a leader needs to know about the daily experiences of the grassroots people. It remains to be seen whether Theo-Ben’s ‘bringing Parliament’ to the south will bring any concrete benefits to the people he visited! Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Libertine Amathila, should be commended for her motherly concern for the most neglected and exploited Namibian San communities. She should now press Parliament to approve a budgetary allocation for the overall development of the San people in Namibia. The whole nation would support such an allocation. It was a step in the right direction when the other day she gave the microphone to members of the Khwe community in western Caprivi to inform her in no uncertain terms of their plight. Her simple appearance was also commendable, not putting on those superfluous dressings and artificial hairstyles that African women leaders are associated with. Leaders should come to the level of the people for real dialogue to take place. They should also learn to talk less and listen more when meeting the people. It was amusing to watch the encounter between Prime Minister Nahas Angula and a group of learners from Usakos. Nahas started off by lecturing them on the Namibian Constitution and how Parliament works. When the floor was open for discussion, the learners told him they needed a hall at their school. Wise and practical leaders are those who mostly listen with their mouths shut. Mahatma Gandhi of India and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania were two such leaders and they brought great changes in people’s lives. Through his humane and democratic leadership, President Pohamba is pointing out the way towards a successful Namibia. His personal examples are humility, honesty, listening with the heart and being accessible to every Namibian regardless of racial or ethnic origin, social status, political affiliation or religious belief. When addressing Namibians, his popular phrases are empowering, uplifting and unifying, such as “My countrymen and women…; I thank you…; I am impressed…,” and so forth. Pohamba’s examples are a sound foundation to build on for a successful Namibia! Samson Ndeikwila Windhoek