We cannot tackle today’s problems with the solutions of twenty-six years ago. ‘Philosophers have interpreted the world in different ways. The point, however, is to change it’, wrote one famous international economist in the 19th century. Before that, Cicero opined that a life unexamined is a life not worth living. One of the world’s greatest leadership gurus, John C. Maxwell, teaches that experience in and of itself is meaningless unless it leads to reflection and change by way of doing things differently. One of the shortcomings of Afrikan civilization is its inability to think seriously about change. In Namibia, we think more about how we were oppressed and less about how to make life more meaningful, and when we want a better life, it is only our life, not the common good for all. This is the Namibian, yes, the Afrikan problem. Our problem. Hence, we have taken the very important project of national independence as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end, namely, freedom for all to be and to become, and to do the best to our abilities to contribute to the common good. The struggle for freedom must be appreciated as a necessary and sufficient condition to bring about real change in the lives of the ordinary people so that they do not remain in the same hole of poverty, underdevelopment and dependency they were found in at independence.
No one, no country can make Namibia a better place than the Namibians themselves. A vast country of 824 292 square kilometers in size, therefore the world’s 34th largest country, after Venezuela, yet second least densely populated territory after Mongolia (3 people per square km), Namibia is a land with great potential to grow and develop. Namibia’s political economy has fifteen major characteristics that must be taken into account when planning is done, if such planning is to be futuristic and intentional to serve the purpose of sustainable socio-economic development which in turn influences its politics. They are:
- The country is sandwiched between two great dry lands, the Kalahari Desert and the Namib Desert.
- It is geographically a vast country with a very low population density, with people scattered and distributed along ethnic and/or tribal lines, where the majority of the people live subsistence lives with a dependency on the rains and government handouts.
- It is sandwiched between two big economies, Angola in the north and South Africa in the south, both politically unstable systems with different factors in their instability.
- Its history has left it with uneven economic relationships with a persistent racial and to a lesser degree ethnic factor.
- It lacks an industrial base, namely manufacturing and production of iron and steel and oil.
- Even though the majority of the people are employed in the agricultural sector, the government has not placed sufficient premium on agriculture in the same manner that apartheid did to lift the poor subsistence farmers to levels of commercial production.
- It is entirely dependent upon South Africa, thus leaving the country vulnerable to the events across the Orange River.
- The vastly distributed ethnic groups remain ignorant of one another along the narratives of colonial education that left them indifferent towards one another, and there has not been a crusade to tackle ignorance and prejudice that were drummed into people by the systems of divide and rule, to the extent that even the top leaders in the country would not know how many languages are spoken in the country, let alone distinguish them one from the other.
- There is no model or template to guide how people acquire positions of leadership locally, regionally and nationally to the extent that the new tribe, the ruling party, has cannibalized the public political space and is the new executive tribe that dishes out largesse in return for blind loyalty, sycophancy and obsequiousness from those who have nothing or little to contribute to the national development except their opportunistic loyalty at the expense of merit.
- The government is inundated by insecure and exceedingly incompetent members of the legislature and the executive who are there on the tickets of political patronage with NO internalized ethics to guide them in their services to the people.
- The old colonial racial divide has not been turned into a constructive partnership of world views: the white side that is predominantly responsible for the life line of the economy and the black side with its great potential but remains underdeveloped and abused by the new black political elite.
- It is characterized by greed and show-off consumption habits without the converse of productivity and maintenance.
- A chronic lack of aggressive planning to turn around the national economic logic from a colonial-dependency economy to an Afrikan self-reliant economy that does more with less, and where sacrifice is required for at least 50 years; and,
- Lack of a programmatic strategy to make meaningful the relationship with former enemies and allies alike, and to spearhead a new private-public partnership that is geared to kick-start the socio-economic relationships such that the vibration is felt not in the capital, but everywhere, and which prioritizes outward development instead of city-centered development with housing prices prohibitive for citizens and investors alike.
- Namibia is an Afrikan country with an Afrikan background, led by people with an Afrikan mindset, and therefore faced with a myriad of Afrikan challenges, diseases and dis-eases.
Against the general background of colonization, which is often an excuse many Afrikan bad leaders use to mismanage and plunder their countries, there is a general pattern of post-colonial Afrikan governance that must be borne in mind when attempting to seek a better solution. As early as the 1970s Goran Hyden sounded this alarm: ‘Turning the despair and pessimism that affect large sectors of the African people into hope and optimism, will require the planners of African development to re-inspect the premises upon which they have based their planning to date. No one escapes this challenge; there are no shortcuts to progress.’ The reality is that Afrika remains the most backward continent compared to others which were equally colonized, save for the terrible experience of wholesale slavery that robbed the continent of her able-bodied men and women who would, had it not been for this unnatural interception, certainly have made Afrika move apace with other lands. The common tale of this great, yet not altogether happy, continent is that Afrikans under self-rule have seen:
*Wounded international relationships
*Haphazard development programmes
*Limping presidential projects
*Heartless judicial systems
*Deformed action plans
*Continental bleak futures and
All very dis-empowering news and statistics all over, all the time, all along.
The new deal for Namibia is a programme to tackle the above and change Namibia for the better – for the people, not just for a few leaders who continue to eat alone and on behalf of others who are hungry. To get out of this situation requires a new way of thinking, not only about politics, but about the people as rational actors and agents/agencies of change. Those entrusted with the privilege (not right) to lead others ought to think differently about peace, stability and harmony – all of which depend on sustainable development so that the greatest number of people have reason to defend democracy. Namibia stands a better chance compared to other Afrikan countries to do better in so far as planning for real development is concerned. There is an advantage in being small, diverse and multiracial from the start of our nationhood, not to mention the fact that as a child of international solidarity, Namibia can entice the international community to support its bold and unique disposition towards sustainable development that can be emulated by other and older Afrikan nations.
The starting point is to make stronger the political foundations we have established and build a rock-solid new national consciousness to guide our thoughts and actions vis-à-vis one another as people, communities, organizations and a nation in relation to other nations. We need a philosophy that can assist to facilitate the evolution of a deracialised, detribalized national psyche that can guide the nation in its steps and its stops going forward. Just as there was a psyche that inspired so many people to sacrifice their youth to become part of the goal of liberating the country, there can be a new psyche not for war, but for development and meaningful international competitiveness. The spirit to be part of the goal of liberation and freedom was fuelled by an acceptance that sacrifice was better than doing nothing, and the future was better than the past and/or the present, for all and especially the black majority in their motherland. Certainly these people who left everything behind to enter the darkness were committed to bringing about a new brighter day for their country – whether they were there themselves when that day came did not really matter.
The second step is to define our national interests after the attainment of political independence and in the context of who we are, how we can coalesce better as a nation on the one hand and our international relations on the other. What united Namibians before independence, namely the enemy from outside, is no more. The enemy we face now is from within, namely our own new demons, chief amongst them the spectres of political party, self-righteousness, culture of entitlement and greed.
The fifth step is to understand our context and interrogate it selflessly for purposes of national development and improvement of life for the people. As Thomas Aquinas taught, ‘Cognitum est in cognoscente per modum cognoscentis’: we see the world as it was presented to us or as we are, not as it is. We need to appreciate that our reality and our aspirations, our assumptions about the development and one another are path-dependent.
In other words, our experiences thus far determine our assumptions and how we react to situations and even to one another. To move on requires reading history backwards and a re-interpretation of the original freedom dreams so that new life is breathed into these dreams in the lives of the people today, including those who were not yet born when the dreams were dreamed.
The sixth step is to test and evaluate the validity of those dreams and other aspirations of the freedom generation in the context of here and now, and the discernible future. This exercise requires knowing the rules and fundamentals of the game of democratic politics, honour, refinement and constant self-evaluation under the light of the human condition that instructs that power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. The fourth step is about the edifices of the nation that must be made strong. In other words: What is the rock upon which the nation is built and to which future generations must return in times of weakness and vulnerability. A good example of the national foundation is the American preamble to their Declaration of Independence which is the American dream founded upon equality of all citizens, regardless of other markers of diversity.