Globally, politicians are often vilified for a variety of wrong-doings. Sometimes they even get a stick for simply being politicians.
In Namibia, politicians get blamed for almost everything. We have heard – maybe as satire sometimes – people blaming politicians even for the manner in which the wind is blowing, or because winter is too cold.
And when certain things go well, we often do not reciprocate the courtesy of simply thanking them for their contribution towards that state of affairs.
Namibian politicians, in their entirety, are no special breed. If anything, they share similar traits as their peers elsewhere in the world, particularly in mother Africa.
But perhaps we often undermine their power and influence. These are people who command huge followings and what they say and do can inspire thousands of people in the country.
The inspiration referred to can be positive or negative. And it is the negative that we fear the most. Even warlords such as Jean-Bédel “The Butcher of Bangui” Bokassa, the leader of Central African Republic accused of killing 100 schoolchildren who refused to buy expensive uniforms bearing his image in the 1970s – commanded a huge following.
Idi Amin and Joseph Kony – some of Uganda’s most brutal politicians of all time – also command respect and are worshipped by followers who are ready to jump, no matter how high, on instruction by these men.
With this power and influence, therefore, Namibian politicians have the country’s peace and stability in the palms of their hands. Many of their peers on the continent instigated their fellow tribesmen or people with whom they share similar political ideologies to create havoc, resulting in anarchy and deaths.
For a multi-cultural society like ours, outbreaks of tribal or ethnic violence are a real possibility. But with all their powers and influence, our politicians – with the exception of those who instigated the failed Caprivi secession attempt in 1999 – have behaved in a way that has promoted peace and stability.
Even when differing, our politicians have often done so in a respectable manner that would not pit supporters on the streets against each other. We have seen incidents where politicians trade blows during parliamentary sessions – or unruly ones being kicked out of legislative proceedings. Yes, our country is swamped by a multitude of problems, a lion’s share of which are to be blamed on politicians.
Poverty and hunger are often a result of politicians’ failure to command timely delivery of services, or simply failure to come up with practical policy interventions to rectify some situations.
But a country with peace and stability stands a better chance to work towards resolving its poverty and hunger headaches than an unstable nation.
In fact, peace and stability is the very foundation that any society needs to function. This is not to say that politicians in stable states may backpedal on delivering other services to the nation.
We have had incidents where politicians are pursuing tribal or racial agendas. We have come across reckless pronouncements being made by politicians, which would influence an average man on the street to cause havoc and destruction.
But in the main, Namibian politicians on both sides of the ruling divide have relatively safeguarded our peace. Electoral disputes, for example, have been handled in the courtroom rather than on the street and this has helped the nation in more ways than one.
This and others are tenets of exemplary leadership. We hope the same atmosphere will prevail in regional and local government elections billed for November this year.