Like with the OAU and AU dreams, we in Namibia have a fundamental question to answer, namely, is our dream in danger of being deferred and thus can lead to explosion? It would appear that the answers to this question are determined by where people are seated in relation to political and economic power. Those who are in power and got the government tenders are hasty to answer that we are right on track because answering it differently would suggest their own failure. Those who are not, or who are no longer close to power would say that the dream began to haemorrhage the moment they left. Those in charge of so-called traditional authorities are the least interested in national unity as it does not serve their immediate sectarian power and material interests. Then the volume on how united we are gets lower and lower as we go down with the question to the real people on the ground. Like one theorist once said: If you want to know whether the system is working, ask those who are not working!
A lot has been written about why things went wrong, and continue to go wrong in Afrika. The greater consensus is that the Afrikan crisis is a crisis of leadership. Resources are in abundance – from sun to water to fertile land to human capital to goodwill to peace to literacy to political commitment. Still the problem is leadership. Of all leadership models, it is the Afrikan one that appears recalcitrant to adapt to changing circumstances and conditions. Afrikan leaders appear greedier than others in terms of the gap between the rulers and the ruled. Whereas other leaders are corrupt and greedy, it is the Afrikan leaders who go overboard with pomposity, leave beyond their nations’ means, and continue to eat on behalf of their poor citizens; it is Afrikan leaders who seem not to feel the pain of their own people the moment they reach the top. It is Afrikan leaders who insist to be called things they know very well they are not. It is Afrikan leaders who engage in funny habits they themselves do not understand and the origins of which they cannot explain. For instance, where the parliamentary system emanates from (Great Britain, France and the USA), members of the legislative houses call themselves Honourable only when they are officially in session. When they leave they are normal people with names. It is Afrikans, especially Namibians, who carry those titles home and wear them when they should not, to the extent that even childhood friends call those in parliament honourable during family parties. This is part of the sickness that proceeds from a deep inferiority complex that people believe can only be overcome with titles, however bogus these titles are.
The year Nelson Mandela died, the count of his honorary doctoral degrees was on 151, and at no time did he parade himself as Doctor Mandela. He even refused to be called His Excellency as he always argued that people elected him to be President, Period! He did not need it to be relevant and significant. This is why he was respected around the world as a different Afrikan leader. Both the OAU and the current AU became platforms of bogus orchestration of ceremony and display of ill power by Afrikan leaders who have no honour in their own backyards. NEPAD became discredited as there were NO true champions of durable development that would serve the peoples of Afrika. NEPAD became a fundraising strategy for Afrikan leaders when engaging their richer masters in the West after the collapse of the alternative super power, the Soviet Union.
One hopes that our President-Elect will put a stop to this culture of titles and return us to a culture of respecting ourselves as we are and a culture of true leadership. Afrika needs a new culture of leadership that can deliver, rather than a culture wherein people scramble for titles and positions.
What can leaders in Namibia do to prevent us from becoming another laughing stock in the world? The foundations have been laid, but like the AU experience illustrates, foundations on their own are not good enough. Buildings are seen by what is on the foundations. It is time for us to move forward and build. As we face our challenges and contradictions, let us move forward and use the time we have to make certain that we leave this place, this country, this world in a better state than the one we found it in. Otherwise we shall be remembered that we came, ate, enriched ourselves, grew fat and left the land in ruins.
Here is what it boils down to: Democracy is a project of the ‘common man’. Thus for a democracy to work, the greatest number of people who live under it must have something to defend in that democracy, not just a few who eat on behalf of others, as the story was with Afrikan Dream. In other words, how many people live without fear in our nation, or at least are not mindful of who is hearing what they say, and why? To build upon and safeguard the Namibian Dream, there are things that we as a nation ought to do, and upon which our leadership must be appraised continuously and deliberately: These are:
– Free and compulsory education for all, at all levels up to college;
– Government ought to be taken closer to the people. This includes doing away with the system of imposing regional governors outside, so that the President appoints people from within those who emerge as winners in the regional council elections. In that way the governors are accountable to the voters and not only to the President, and the President and Head of State are protected from accusations that he is parachuting bogus leaders on the regions;
– Start a process of delinking the Executive Branch of our Government from the Legislature so that the two organs perform their functions separately from one another and the executive accounts to the national lawmakers who in turn account to the voters;
– The Executive organ of state be made smaller and more functional rather than keep it as a reward system for comrades, and keep in line with the small size of the population that is crying out for better education, a responsive health care system, and up to standard caring safety and security apparatus and a better food security planning and programmes;
– Support the President-Elect’s progressive move towards a merit system in government so that people are appointed on the basis of what they can do rather than how many rallies they attended;
– The new administration ought to look into the feasibility and modalities of establishing sports academies in all the Thirteen plus One regions to start arresting the idleness of youth who are academically oriented so that they can be mobilized to take up sports as careers that can sustain their lives and those of their families, and coupled to this is an introduction of a department of sports medicine at the UNAM medical school to cater for the management and administration of sports in the country;
– Attention be given to the mushrooming culture of car guards – so much so that there are young African men who loiter even around churches and funeral sites to offer ostensibly vehicle protection whereas many of them are the culprits of these irking crimes. They should be taken off the streets and placed in vocational training centres for training in basic life skills so that they become meaningful members of the economy in the nation;
– Work aggressively towards establishing a fully-fledged University of Agriculture and Food Security in Katima Mulilo;
– Move aggressively towards establishing a University of Education responsible for training teachers and school administrators in the country. The first two years of these students be devoted to English language skills with the assistance of trainers and lecturers from English first language countries, preferably the United States where there is a huge reservoir of conscientious African-Americans who are eager to make a contribution to the upltiftment of the Afrikan peoples;
– Beef up security apparatuses, both defence and constabulary to make it as safe as possible for citizens and visitors to the Namibian shores and at all times such that it is not only the elite that feels safe but all who dwell on Namibian soil;
– The Ministry of Trade and Industry regulate hospitality facilities throughout the country, such that fuel service stations on national roads are allowed to extract money from users as that ought to be part of their license agreements to provide toilet facilities just as restaurants are required to provide toilets instead of burdening ordinary road users with additional expenses;
– Regulate that restaurant workers including waiters and waitresses enter into legal employment contracts with their employees that guarantee them a minimum wage such that they do not depend on tips to make a living;
– Turn down the volume on affirmative action as it is applied, unevaluated gender equity measures, and political party affiliation and turn up the volume on skills and competency to deliver to the Namibian people in their zebra style, neither black nor white, but both;
– Embark aggressively on Land Reform which will begin to address partly the legitimate issues encapsulated in the Affirmative Repositioning crusade which has more to do with space and housing than agricultural land, meaning that the Government has to find ways to respond to the disparities in land acquisition by the political elite that is gobbling up the space by obtaining farm land and houses which they would not have been able to get if they were not in the positions that they are in and at the same time show reluctance to others who have the same aspirations;
– Regulate the housing and property prices in Windhoek and across the country such that normal people can afford place to live and raise kids with a sense of self-worth and pride, and combine this with an aggressive crusade to improve customer service in our industries;
– Introduce a deliberate and carefully run immigration law that will be receptive to the categories of non-Namibian nations to settle permanently in Namibia: for argument’s sake 50 000 (Fifty Thousand) persons from Afrika, 10 000 (Ten Thousand) African-Americans and 2 000 (Two Thousand) Angolans and South Africans each to be processed as naturalized citizens in Namibia, as long as they come to contribute meaningfully to the economic and national development of the country; and,
– Introduce a national service dispensation that will compel all high school finishers to spend ONE YEAR working in one of the economic sectors in the nation, be it in the healthcare, police, military, agriculture, education, road infrastructure, old-age homes, ministries and stage agencies so that they learn something about life before they are admitted to university or polytechnic institutions for further education and training. This will give them some discipline and a sense of nationhood before they can determine where their skills, strengths and talents are that need to be developed for purposes of personal and national development.
If these things are not done, we shall continue to be on the path and trajectory of development that Afrika is known for –going one step forward and three backwards. New Afrikan leaders, including ours in Namibia, need to begin to think about development beyond just their own security interests, and cast their eyes on the wider horizon of peace, stability and development. They need to look beyond their own successes and satisfaction with yesterday and move the people forward on the new paradigm of possibilities and a common vision. John Maxwell is right when he warns about self-celebration, that is, when leaders are so preoccupied with how successful they are that they become a hindrance of others’ success and stand in the way of a better tomorrow. This is because yesterday was, but tomorrow is another day. It is time for Afrikan leaders to head Goran Hydn who warned way back in the 1970s, that: Turning the despair and pessimism that affect large sectors of the African people into hope and optimism will require of the planners of African development to reinspect the premises upon which they have based their planning to date. No one escapes this challenge ….there are no shortcuts to progress! To paraphrase Samuel Becket, our history has deformed all of us. If we want things to be different from what they have been thus far, we must begin to do what we have not yet done. Only then is tomorrow different from yesterday!