By Joseph Diescho
I have learned with dismay that the First Prime Minister used a SWAPO public political rally on Saturday, 5 January, at Outapi, to attack the media and vilify my name by calling me an “intellectual prostitute”. The function of a rally in a democracy is to provide information to people, not scare them or engage in conflicts against individuals. Rallies are concerned with political education and dissemination of the vital messages that the leadership wishes followers to embrace on the road to building a nation.
Dr Hage Geingob felt it necessary to use a national event to pick a fight with me by stating with hubris that I should not mess with him. He clearly did not expect to be left unchallenged. With due respect, I herewith offer my humble response.
First, I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Dr Hage Geingob on his return to SWAPO leadership. As he is very well aware, I am one of those who were saddened by his unceremonious removal from his post as Prime Minister, because he had acquitted himself exceptionally well in that portfolio. He made us all feel proud and walk tall, and we shall always celebrate him for that.
His departure from the Namibian political scene at that time caused many of us anguish, and we said so. He also knows that I know, as do many others, that he was bitter at SWAPO generally and the Founding President in particular after his removal. He knows that we are aware of how much faith he had lost in his colleagues in SWAPO, to the extent that we have heard him say how SWAPO had degenerated into a party of gossip, rumour mongering, backstabbing, false accusations and small-mindedness. He ought to know that Namibians, both inside and outside of the National Assembly, are aware that he left for Washington bragging that he did not need SWAPO.
But SWAPO taught him a lesson. He came back not as a powerful man, but literally ready to accept anything from SWAPO. He placed himself at the mercy of State House and the SWAPO Head Office. We have seen in the months, even before he was given the position as the SWAPO Chief Whip, that he has been sent to perform tasks as master of ceremonies and as the introducer of other speakers.
We sympathized with that, and found it very painful that a person of his calibre, someone who had done so much during the transition and after, could be reduced to being one of the most insignificant politicians in the country, one of the most junior members in Parliament, yet ready to be tossed around on small tasks like a beginner politician.
We all know, as does he, that in the process of working to be readmitted, he sacrificed his own principles on the altar of opportunism. In the last years since he returned as a backbencher, Dr Geingob has not been heard taking any position as a matter of conviction, or defending anything but SWAPO, in essence standing at attention and clicking his heels at whatever instruction, simply to be given something.
The fact of the matter is that Namibians are not fools; they know this very well. We understand that type of chameleon behaviour by politicians as part of the political game, yet we never stopped loving him. And he knows it!
He cannot now stand on rooftops and rally platforms and proclaim what we all know to be false, just because he is grateful to have been taken back. He cannot now be the loudest in pontificating that the problems that he himself complained about no longer exist. It would be a sign of very deplorable leadership to see faults only when one is not in power, so that once in power everything is hunky-dory, and woe unto those who continue to see the problems.
Dr Geingob ought to be more circumspect in the manner with which he becomes the choirmaster of the very SWAPO hymns that have been tormenting him during the last several years when he was banished into the political wilderness. How can the people he was castigating all this while now suddenly be the custodians of faultlessness and perfectness? Who is fooling whom here?
I am certain that Dr Geingob knows that I am not the only Namibian who wonders where he stands on many fundamental issues when he sits silently and expresses no opinion on the deteriorating quality of debate in Parliament although in his days as Prime Minister we saw a higher quality of deliberations in the august Legislative House.
Sign of Prostitution
How can it be a sign of prostitution for a child to expect more from his/her parents, especially after the parents have created the expectation in the eyes of the child that more and better can be done? An old African proverb teaches us that if a father beats his child in public to display his physical power over the child, or to impress others, the onlookers will not question the offence the child has committed, but will query the father’s values and judgment, and wonder whether he owns a home where such distasteful conduct can be carried out.
Dr Geingob, as one of the Founding Fathers and Mothers of Namibia, ought to know that he has abused the trust the nation placed in him. He ought to be one of those who are custodians of the value that the public space is a terrain of honour and mutual learning, not one to display profanity and humiliate fellow citizens, especially those who cannot defend themselves on the same platforms.
It is very gratifying to receive messages from people who attended the rally and who expressed shock to hear and see Dr Geingob on a war footing with the media and certain individuals, for no other reason than to convince Tatekulu Nujoma that bringing Dr Geingob back was the right decision.
It is good to hear common people articulate the view that Dr Geingob did not speak to the rally, but to Presidents Nujoma and Pohamba, and that he was presenting his political curriculum vitae to be appointed in government.
He was too aware of where he was, both geographically and in terms of Nujoma’s thinking and wondering, and he was too determined to take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate that he was more SWAPO than they thought, in fact that he was more SWAPO than anyone else and could they please look at him again.
It is sad to hear members of his audience express that they expected more from him, and that what they were given contained no values that they could take home. A hallmark of leadership is to inspire others to have hearts and show compassion. That is not what Namibians are getting from our leaders.
Dr Geingob’s words carried the message of a desperate fellow asking for his job back, or anything ministerial for that matter. The interesting part of the whole thing is that the Namibian people, especially in the region where he was doing the political tap dance rather awkwardly, could see right through him.
Hence, many question his motives for such uncalled-for behaviour. It is very unfortunate that people with the track record of Dr Geingob, still having the best we have, can justify the types of bellicose language and behaviour we are witnessing!
Second, I doubt whether Dr Geingob understands the difference between opportunism and prostitution. Prostitution is a profession practised in rendering sexual services in exchange for income. Opportunism is the adaptation of one’s behaviour or judgment to circumstances or opportunity regardless of principle, or the grabbing of opportunity when opportunity occurs. This is exactly what he as a politician has been doing since he returned and has worked so hard to be appointed again by Nujoma. And he did well, to his credit. The rest is commentary.
I am a self-respecting social scientist, an intellectual, and a professor who professes ideas and challenges the way we understand phenomena, think and reason in order for us to improve as human beings and in relationships with others. The type of political loyalty we have in Namibian politics is an advanced form of opportunism.
I am not known for adapting my deeply held ideas of liberty and democracy in order to win favours from the powers that be. The same cannot be said about Dr Geingob, and we all know why. I therefore stand by what I said, the basis of which Die Republikein printed, that I described the political conduct of my most respected elder brothers as opportunistic.
What I expressed was my disappointment that these noble men who have influenced a fool like me can allow a situation characterized by a lack of principles, ethics and fundamental values to rule in our national politics. It is out of respect for them that I mentioned that I expected of them to guide and direct us. For them to pretend as if they do not know or feel the pain is typical opportunistic behaviour.
It is their behaviour that I questioned, not their persons as such. I am certain that Dr Geingob cannot take off his eyeshades, look people in the eye and honestly say he has NOT been opportunistic in his desire to be given something in and by SWAPO.
Maybe there is nothing wrong with this because he is a politician, if we understand politics as the art of the possible. In a real sense we, as human beings, are all opportunistic: that is how we survive.
Psychologists instruct us that the most powerful motivation in human behaviour is self-preservation! I do not know where the louse has bitten Dr Geingob to leap into the type of action that Outapi saw when he stomped the stage Rambo-style to waste his breath on me instead of educating Namibian citizens regarding where he as the Old New Man wants the nation to go. He has more to do than give me so much name recognition, which I sometimes really do not deserve.
Third, it would appear that our respected leaders have nothing else to do than unnecessarily pick fights with other Namibians. Their business is to lead, not enter boxing rings with opponents who are not even in the rings. That is madness, not leadership.
I would have expected the leaders in SWAPO and all other parties for that matter to save their breath and energy in leading us, guiding us, assisting us to know where we are going as a nation. I expected them to address the multiplicity of problems and challenges with which the Namibian nation is faced. These include:
– A crisis in the education system: more learners have failed than passed in 2007;
– A crisis in the nation’s healthcare regime: hospitals are in a deplorable condition. Namibian state hospitals are in such a state that government officials prefer to go to and send their families to private hospitals or to South Africa; the work ethic in our hospitals is worse than the situation was during apartheid;
– A crisis of unemployment to the extent that people are becoming more hopeless and the type of education and training they receive inside make them feel inherently insecure about themselves compared to their counterparts who study in South Africa;
– A crisis in our Foreign Affairs position as a nation: our understanding of who we are and what role Namibia can play and has indeed played in the past are well below the real mark of Namibia as a great nation. Through the politics of opportunism and patronage, we are selling ourselves short and continue to undermarket ourselves continentally and globally.
The proud record that Namibia built just after independence, thanks to Dr Geingob and Mr Theo-Ben Gurirab, has been eroded over the last several years when we have not had the sophistication of representing Namibia and a game plan, and when we became preoccupied with political loyalty rather than merit and commitment to keeping Namibia as a respected and leading member of the international community;
– A crisis in the management of HIV/Aids and related opportunistic diseases that are taking a huge toll on our small nation. Mismanagement of the meagre resources at our disposal in that we are spending far too much on government bureaucracy instead of looking after the nation, especially those who need to be cared for;
– A crisis in that as a nation we have not begun to dream big and be bold enough to do things for ourselves instead of depending on other nations to fund most of our activities.
The executive of government continues to drift away from the people since some ministers and other senior government officials are too preoccupied with their own positions and stomachs instead of serving the nation;
– A crisis since there is no national dialogue about what the country has done well in since independence and upon which the future can be built. It would appear that the only citizens who are given positions are not the best but the quietest, and the brave who dare to dream are castigated and marginalized as unpatriotic;
– A crisis stemming from the fact that the leadership has not begun to give enough resources to our national sportsmen and women. We expect our athletes to bring medals home when we are not carrying them towards winning;
– A crisis in our schools across the land where we witness a lack of discipline, low morale, no interest in learning, and no desire and commitment amongst the teaching corps to deliver our children to a better tomorrow;
– A crisis in the management of the nation’s commitment to national reconciliation in that today we have individuals acting as the high priests of forgiveness while the rest must accept their opportunistic precepts and versions of history and correctness;
– A crisis of leadership in our regional and local government structures wherein people are deployed to serve their appointing masters instead of serving the people on the ground;
– A crisis in the management of Vision 2030 in the sense that we have committed ourselves to the ideals articulated in Vision 2030, yet there is no central bureau to coordinate and oversee the work and progress towards this vision;
– A crisis of fear, hindering many good people, such as the likes of Dr Geingob from holding any value-based view independent of the person who appoints them as leaders;
– A crisis in that the political elite, particularly in the ruling party, seems mired in the past and is totally incapable of providing a direction for the future; most speeches are still about liberation and the glory of independence, as if life and history came to a standstill at independence, forgetting that a good number of voters in the next election will be people who were born after independence and will not care a hoot about the self-congratulations and guilt-tripping of those who want to dream about the future beyond colonialism.
The fact is that the youth in Namibia dream their own dreams and want a better life. No talk about who brought independence will deliver them in their own promised land. The language of war and fear-mongering can only turn them away from political participation.
SWAPO scarves and party flag uniforms will not cut it. The future is about and for the youth, the young ones on whose behalf the struggle for liberation was waged.
The youth want to see a leadership that cares, a leadership that exhibits compassion, a leadership with courage to defend the values in the constitution, a leadership that rules by grace and with truth. The youth desires a leadership that is warm and that talks about an inclusive society where differences are celebrated and directed towards the greater good for all citizens.
Need I say more?
If saying these things is prostitution, then we have a problem with how we look at life and our roles in it. We are the privileged ones from whom more is expected. People who would call me a prostitute for speaking the truth to power, but with love and respect for others, would most definitely term Mother Theresa the “Mayor of Sodom and Gomorrah” and Jesus of Nazareth an “imperialist agent” whose salvation is only in blind loyalty to SWAPO!
It is thus most unfortunate to see national leaders wasting their valuable time taking us backwards rather than forward; declaring war instead of proclaiming peace and goodwill;
engaging in an us-versus-them cheap game of politics instead of turning to one another as one; dividing us instead of uniting us as one nation in a diversity of views and other attributes; teaching us to hate one another instead of equipping us with the language of love; preparing us to fear one another instead of giving us a pedagogy for building meaningful relationships of brotherhood and sisterhood; pushing us away instead of pulling us towards their vision and dream of a prosperous Namibia and a peaceful and stable Africa.
In the end, we are spending more time and resources on negative name-calling that will take us nowhere along the path of building the nation we wish to become, a people at peace with ourselves and the world.
When we want to destroy other Namibians, we are only destroying ourselves. Certainly we can do better than that, and it all begins at the top, with the type of leadership we have. We surely can do better, and the time to begin this is NOW!
– Joseph Diescho is a renowned intellectual, a political scientist, an African leadership specialist, and currently Professor of Government and Political Studies at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa.