“I’M not a crook,” said US President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal that led to him stepping down.
Many felt Nixon hung on in an undignified manner, going only when it seemed clear he would otherwise be impeached.
Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) president, Hidipo Hamutenya, announced last weekend that he will step down from the helms of the beleaguered party by end of this month.
An honest, noble and decent step, despite a cloud of unhappiness that preceded his unprecedented announcement last weekend.
Hamutenya has, almost solely, been blamed for the party’s dismal performance in last year’s elections and the general dwindling of its support.
He lacks energy, creativity and charisma to lead the organisation, his critics say. His immediate subordinate, party vice-president Steve Bezuidenhoudt, has been on record calling for Hamutenya to step down and be replaced with a younger, energetic person.
The announcement of Hamutenya’s resignation has been met with mixed reactions. Some argue that he should not have stood for re-election at the party’s last congress where he faced Kandy Nehova in the battle for the party’s presidency.
Others argue that Hamutenya was the only RDP leader capable of mounting a respectable challenge against Swapo’s Hage Geingob and therefore it was right for him to stand for re-election.
His resignation was taken with a pinch of salt by those who argued that it did not originate from his genuine willingness to step down, but out of intimidation by those who called for him to step down.
But whatever the case may be, Hamutenya is – to his credit – leaving the RDP presidency with some degree of grace.
The only high-profile resignations that Namibia witnesses on a regular basis are those of corporate leaders who leave their jobs because there is a better job offer elsewhere, or politicians who would have failed to make it to parliament and therefore see no need to remain in failed political projects.
In a country where legality and morality are diverging concepts, it is hard to recall more than a handful of recent examples that represented truly exemplary behaviour.
Even if the assumption that Hamutenya has resigned due to pressure were true, he will be remembered as a politician who listened to party members’ concerns, swallowed his pride and stepped down in the face of imminent laughter and ridiculing by detractors.
And indeed the boo boys lived up to their billing on social networks where they laughed their lungs out at news that Hamutenya has caved in to intra-party pressure.
Namibian politicians on both sides of the divide have over the years shown little willingness to leave their positions, even in light of blatant failure or embarrassing episodes.
Even when failure is the only description of their legacies, they have hung on like barnacles. They remain stuck in there like bees on honey.
Maybe Hamutenya left it a little too late. An earlier resignation would have earned him a standing ovation from both friend and foe.
But having listened to discontent among his party members, he took a proverbial stand to step down. It would have been illogical for him to continue presiding over a party that has clearly failed its latest test with such embarrassing proportions.
The RDP had set itself a target of increasing its parliamentary seats from eight to 25, but instead lost badly that it will now have only three MPs for the next five years.
Having lost its official opposition status to DTA, the RDP now has an opportunity to select a president who will redeem it.