Drama: Comrade Head of State
Playwright: Vickson Hangula
Reviewer: Arlene Mouton
The futuristic date of the work in question is 24 March 2030. The fourth president of the Republic of Namibia Nghinukilwa Ya Mundilo, “modestly” calling himself “comrade head of state” has called his first parliamentary meeting with his five “closest confidantes” trying to solve the problems of yesterday, today and tomorrow during his reign.
This plenary meeting, where the audience is made aware of the irony of a country rapidly heading nowhere, as opposed to being a first world country as envisioned forty years earlier, make up the conceptual framework of this play.
The first scene starts with the president (Vickson Hangula) entering the set as an official parliament type room with photographs of two of his predecessors, Nujoma and Pohamba as well as a picture of himself, hanging on the back wall.
(This left me with a curiosity as to who the third president was – pretty decent writers ploy, I would say!)
The “comrade head of state” salutes his predecessors and makes a pledge promising that with him in the driver’s seat, the country would be steered toward a path of prosperity. (To me it seemed as if ‘prosperity’ was his only goal.)
The first person to arrive for the scheduled meeting was, Nicola De Wee (Senga Brockerhof) who immediately wants to know two things: why, for something as important as the first parliamentary meeting, only five members had been invited? And secondly, why she had to come earlier than the rest?
The explanation that followed made it apparent that the two have some sort of romantic fling going. Their subsequent conversation concluded that the “relationship” could go nowhere because of their political ambitions and with her being the “Comrade minister of internal affairs and social welfare” and all.
(At this point I thought I sensed a touch of nepotism present in the future, of course, I could have been wrong…ending the tirade that went on inside my head at that time.)
The “Comrade Head of State” explained to her that she is part of his core advisory team and closest confidantes and that together they would fulfil his pledge to his predecessors. After stating this point, he went on blaming modernity for the predicament (lack of prosperity) the country finds itself in at the end of the ‘Vision’ and reckons that they just needed “strategy and tactics” which is what he was using when he decided to form this group of advisors.
He then went on giving her a thorough history lesson and even went as far as impersonating his predecessors – Nujoma with his “theme” of “Vision 2030”, Pohamba, who warned against corruption and – to answer the question on everyone’s mind – Sara Kugongelwa, the supposed third president of Namibia, who promoted youth empowerment.
(The satirical impersonations were very convincing with the audience applauding heartily.)
He then decided that what they needed was a theme just like the predecessors and that he would call his theme “Back to the Roots”. He got so excited over this that he ordered Nicola to call the other members and tell them that they were expected to attend the meeting dressed in traditional attire.
The second scene saw the stage fill up with the rest of the chosen members donning a plethora of cultural costumes. Tension and excitement were in the air with the minister of foreign affairs !Goan !Hoe’mab (Steven Afrikaner) feeling “cheated” wearing his traditional San attire while most of the others looked “descent”. (There are three things to remember in the future: be civilised, dress decently and keep up with the times like !Hoe’mab.) And the minister of finance, Dr Gert Labuschagne (Paul Hamman) feeling like a “Boer” with his traditional outfit awkwardly making him aware of his heritage, whereby the “comrade head of state” jokingly told him to look into a mirror so that he could see that he is a “Boer” and should be proud of his heritage.
(The “Comrade minister of finance” had the essential element of ‘arse creeping’ well covered).
The “comrade head of state” asked all present to introduce themselves and his good friend Tourob Damaseb (Hubert ‘Boetietjie’ Kavandjii), deputy president and long-term friend of the president confirmed my suspicions of nepotism as he most colorfully explained his comradeship with his excellency. The minister of arts, culture and broadcasting, was “sweet and short” stating that she was proud of her heritage and that she would henceforth be performing all her official duties and speeches in traditional attire.
The president then asked all present to provide ideas on how to raise more funds in order to make the country more prosperous. This proved to be very comical.
(Although it seemed as if our country would be a rich one in the future with discoveries of “huge oil fields” and “the largest deposit of alluvial diamonds” as well as all the raw materials needed to produce nuclear war weapons. This play depicted a hopeless and bleak future without peace and real prosperity.
The moral of the story – practice what you preach, we should all work together to achieve vision 2030 to prevent feeling as hopeless as the “Comrade Head of State” in this play, when he said:
“The people who promised us utopia are missing, how smart of them”.
(This work is clearly the writers’ envisionment of what life would be like in 2030, should matters of importance like combating corruption and counteracting nepotism, sexism and violence be allowed to deteriorate. It was very entertaining,, but I think the actors should have done a bit more character research because some parts of the play were not convincing and they did not seem comfortable in their communications with each other at times.)