We’ve yearned for an open president, now we have one

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President Hage Geingob’s signature promise since his inauguration was to run a transparent and open administration.

Prior to his inauguration, Geingob held three unprecedented press conferences to make major announcements. These announcements were broadcast live on national television and representatives of the press were granted a chance to ask the then president-elect any questions related to the subject at hand – on all occasions.

Two months after his inauguration, the President defied doubtful expectations by announcing his wealth and that of his wife. Mind you, he is under no legal obligation to do so.

Even on that historic occasion at State House, also broadcast live on national TV, members of the press were afforded an opportunity to ask questions. We remember vividly how the President, in almost a begging manner, repeatedly asked anyone with a question to express themselves.

Since that day, and while the majority of the public seem to have been impressed with the President’s audacious decision, a section of the populace refused to swallow that announcement hook, line and sinker.

Our resident columnist, Professor Joseph Diescho, also raises critical questions in his column published elsewhere in this edition today, about the context of the President’s declaration of assets.

The learned professor raises, amongst others, the question of why Geingob is only declaring his assets now, when he has in fact been a vital member of government since independence – including two spells as prime minister.

The exact source of the President’s N$50 million wealth has also come into sharper focus – as both intellectuals and critics continue to weigh in on this subject.

We are pleased to be citizens of a country where citizens can ask critical questions without fear of reprisal by those governing them. This is a sign of a functioning democracy and a tolerant leadership. In this respect, Namibia deserves a standing ovation from the league of nations.

To be fair, while the nation waited for the President to announce his wealth, he plunged them into a sense of anxiety as he listed his long working history, the properties he owned in the country and abroad and how much he sold some of them for.

Observers were biting their nails, as they waited – rather impatiently – for Geingob to announce figures of his exact wealth.

This was a case of a president listing the many sources of his wealth. Geingob has done his part. It is now up to the nation to analyse what was presented to determine whether indeed the listed assets and jobs could create wealth of N$50 million.

On the question of why Geingob is only revealing his assets now, a question that has been raised by more people than just our weekly communist – it is perhaps fair to say that every event in history has to be done at a particular point in time.

One of the world’s most revered icons, Nelson Mandela, had to transform himself from a hard core activist for black rights, to a statesman who advocated rights for all – including whites who locked him away for 27 years.

The latter decision does not make him a less genuine leader, because the demands of the time dictated that he should do exactly that.

It would be unfair to suggest that if Geingob was, by any chance, a secretive leader in 1995, such tendency must persist. Therefore the declaration of assets by the President ushers the country into a new era of openness as it would compel all sober-minded officials in government to follow suit – for the greater benefit of the public.

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