Since President Hage Geingob gave his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA) on April 21, 2015, national conversations in shebeens, taxis, hair salons and at dinner tables have been mainly about the mixed feelings regarding the direction the new President has announced. Following the SONA was a great optimism that it was the dawn of a new era and that the nation was in for a new experience it did not know since political independence.
Then came the declarations of the President and his new wife’s wealth and the President’s health. With the declarations the conversations have become somewhat muted due to a lack of consensus on (a) whether these declarations were at all necessary, and if there was NOT another way to make the disclosures without fanfare such that the nation is now in a kind of a voyeurism to peep into the wealth and health of national leaders; (b) there is widespread doubt that the declarations were too edited or sanitised that they do not paint the full picture if the President really wanted to come clean; and (c) whether these declarations did not create another set of unintended consequences in the medium and long run.
It must be said in haste that since our Head of State announced on live television that he and his new spouse are multi-millionaires, a steady division has begun to creep into these conversations across the length and breadth of the Land of the Brave, and has taken a sharp turn from the optimism which came with the SONA. Hearing the President talk about how wealth and healthy he is, but not the details about how he amassed so much wealth while being the Number Two man in the affairs of the nation for 15 years of the 25 years of our nationhood could only send chilling shivers down the spines of folks who would otherwise be his most ardent defenders and long-time comrades.
Like anything in life, the declaration of the first couple’s assets cannot be seen or appreciated in the same manner by all. There are as many interpretations of the meaning of the declarations as there are persons who dare to comment. There are those who are overjoyed that finally, we know how much the Head of State is worth. This lot appreciates the transparencies that come with this move, and are not interested in the rest of the story.
There are those who believe that they are close enough to the truth that they are suspicious of the real motives and how much is being hidden. There are those who are genuinely appreciative of the move that it signals real reform in the business of good governance in our Government and Country, but who wonder about the timing and style in which the declarations were made. There are those who reckon that the President’s announcements amount to boasting about his wealth and health at the expense of the real legacy of Swapo as a liberation movement and as the custodian of the culture of revolution and empathy towards the masses, the poor and the majority of our people who are still battling with their existentialist realities in their lives, such as worrying about where their next meal will come from. Before distilling the real political significance of these developments in our body politic with limited competencies of analysis at our disposal, let us consider the myriad responses that are discernible on the ground right now.
*There are those who see the gates to riches swung open so that they too will get rich (fast) and show off in the not too distant future;
*There are those who claim to know that the assets contained in the declaration need to be explained more and beyond what was said, and that the President is playing double standards by expecting politicians not to be involved in business whereas he used his political position to do “insider trading” with his consultancy company while he was in the service of the State;
*There are those who have devoted all their lives to the liberation struggle that they feel betrayed and fooled by the President who boasts that he has been making money inside and outside the country, while they were picking up the pieces of their assassinated dreams. This category includes a high number of senior government officials who, for fear of losing their portions, speak behind the backs of their hands;
*There are those who simply believe that it was not necessary for the President to tell us how rich he was and who feel vindicated that they warned that President Geingob will be a flamboyant and boastful Head of State compared to his two predecessors, Nujoma and Pohamba, whose eyes were more on the affairs of the nation rather than on themselves;
*There are those who find great joy in Geingob’s declarations as it shows how Swapo has moved away from the plight of the people to the stomachs and thickness of the party’s leaders’ wallets;
*There are those who see the declaration as a strong message to dinosaur Cabinet ministers and MPs who must follow the lead of the President and declare their state of wealth and health;
*There are those who have a collective disbelief that the President is right and must be given time to prove himself on the bans of the great utterances he made thus far;
*There are those who simply would not care because they are convinced that all politicians look and fool society that something has in fact changed. The more the perceptions are the same the more it becomes the reality;
*There are those who believe they depend on him for what they are and can become. – Do anything and everything to get into or stay in his good books;
*There are those who see nothing good in President Geingob and who say smilingly that this is what they expected;
*There are those who say this is how things are done here: a ‘Monkey see Monkey Do’ kind of syndrome;
*There are those who have an orthodox understanding of leadership along the lines of ‘my leader right or wrong’ either by political party, language, tribal or even business affiliation;
*There are those who are convinced that this is a sign of a leader who has not thought things through and who is copying and pasting to be on the populist side of history;
*There are those who are too excited that Namibia is doing better than any other leader in Afrika and simply stop reason there;
*There are those who think they know more and are scared of possible repercussions if all members of his Cabinet or Parliament are to follow his lead and give full disclosures of their health and wealth as there are those who did use their official positions thus far to get rich;
*There are those who had political ambitions and now feel discouraged that they are not going to get rich fast anymore;
*There are those who believe the President should have said that the effects of declarations start now going into the future and have no bearing on the past attributes;
*There are those who believe they owe their life in power to the President that they will do anything as in anything to make certain they get into or remain in his good books;
*Then there are the ethical or non-entrepreneurial leaders and politicians who wish to serve and resent being exposed and/or subjected to the language of corruption and greed that has engulfed the terrain of our political leadership.
It is fair to say that President Hage Geingob has unleashed a few ‘first time’ experiences to the Namibians specifically and Afrikans generally. And it is a good sign, that Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi (out of Afrika comes always something new). In an unprecedented manner, President Geingob for the first time in a free Namibia undertook to tell the nation how much he is worth, and here one has to pause and wonder what the significance is of this big step in the context of those political leaders who have stashed their wealth outside of Namibia and about which they are prepared to write home about. Here is indeed a worry as he is truly challenging his Cabinet and the National Assembly in the realm of ethical leadership, something we have not known thus far. (To be continued)