Nation-building is not a simple assignment and cannot be confined to one leader, one cabinet, one parliament, one political party or even one generation.
The history of human civilisation proves that it took older nations generations and wars to bring about what they can boast about having today. Namibia is only 26 years old, with one generation of leaders still in the National Assembly and Cabinet and everywhere. It is thus very understandable that we are not moving forward as fast as many, especially the youth, would like to see.
While political leaders are tasked with making decisions about a myriad of tough issues, the ordinary people have their fair share of deliberating on what the biggest challenges facing the nation are.
It is important to move towards some agreement about what the real pressing issues are on which resources must be spent, before we lock horns on whether the idea of constructing a new building for the National Assembly and the National Council is plausible or an insensitive act on the part of our elected representatives.
Whether we are happy with this development or not, it is a fact that a bigger parliament building is needed and will be created in the not-too-distant future. The objective reality is that the current space is not sufficient for the number of members of parliament in both houses.
As lawmakers, MPs need offices and infrastructure for staff to be able to do the necessary research and preparations before they go to parliament – only to become bored while the houses are in session. They do not have this necessary assistance at the moment and without it we cannot expect quality work from our MPs.
The build-up towards the construction of a new parliament has already been on the cards for a long while, yet the nation did not engage the leadership, especially in the governing party. At the moment we might be quarreling about the symptoms of a bigger illness in and amongst us… all of us.
We might be yelling at each other for the wrong reasons, just as the British people screamed at one another and decided on a wrong and unhelpful move, because in their frustration they saw and regarded immigration as the major reason for their anger against Greater Europe.
The real problem with the parliament is not the building, but the 2014 amendments that allowed for the increase of MPs from 72 to 104, when the nation did not grow so exponentially for the representatives to be multiplied. This was “jobs for the boys” and therein began our woes. Now that we have them they need space.
In Namibia, small as we are, we have many and similar problems as do other nations. Now, if we were to sit down and choose from the following problems, which we do have, which would be the number one for you? But, you can only choose one, not more than one, and you have to stick with your choice, and where necessary, convince the rest to side with you!
We made too many compromises with the whole United Nations Resolution 435. As a result we ended up being a bi-polar nation: we are part of the capitalist system, which leaves us with little room to really change things. The consequences, such as our housing situation, our inability to transform the economy for the purposes of true economic emancipation of the masses, our not-fit-for purpose education system and so forth, are a result of that compromise. Now we do not know whether we are capitalist, or African, or who knows what else!
Namibia’s independence came at a wrong time when we were denied the options that other and older nations had, to choose either the Eastern system or the Western system. The Soviet socialist system came tumbling down at exactly the same time as the Constituent Assembly was negotiating the future constitution for the Republic of Namibia. We, therefore, started off in a mono-polar world wherein money rules and greed is the order of the day.
We have a political leadership that is trying to solve 21st century problems with 19th century ideas. It is like bringing traditional healers from the north to be lecturers at the Unam School of Medicine. Traditional healers are good at prescribing the same herbal drink (and maybe dance) for all internal and external illnesses (including bad dreams) without a diagnosis.
As in all of Afrika, our problem in Namibia is that the messenger is more important than the message. It is NOT what is said that is important, but WHO says it, WHEN and to WHOM. This is exacerbated by the fact that the ruling parties in post-independence Afrikan countries are a seriously huge brand. A cow put forward as the party’s presidential candidate could win an election in many Afrikan countries, including Namibia, not because of what the cow says, but because it has been anointed by the ruling party.
We lack situational leadership. In our case, the one person who generates more fear than freedom amongst the rest is the leader, because he is feared. In this set-up, ideas do not matter. You just have to sound tough and demolitionist, better yet if you look like you have enough to eat by having the biggest air bag above your belt! Here, it is hard to be elected if you are thin, because you do not look like you have enough at home.
New ideas and innovative suggestions do not work here. Even if the idea, such as the Swapo Party School, could essentially be a good intervention it is suspect, because people want to know why it was not there before. It is not the merit of the concept or idea that warrants credibility, but the time and often, the people in attendance, when the idea is announced would render it dangerous, thus to be avoided.
The political party system that we have adopted just brings more problems than solutions. It is like that in all of Afrika. Look at Angola, Tanzania, everywhere! It is still the same political party since independence. Those in the party become so spoilt and arrogant as party membership is a ticket to political power and wealth. In better democracies, it is your citizenship and contribution that take you somewhere. Here you cannot be a CEO or win a tender if you are not a bragger of your ruling party membership.
Our education and healthcare systems do not work. We have good people all round, but they are not put in positions to contribute according to their abilities to the wellbeing of the nation. We are so deurmekaar that we end up having people in executive positions to perform functions that they do not comprehend. It is like appointing dentists to fix eye problems, simply because they are good comrades to be accommodated with executive appointments. The nation suffers.
The youth in the country is neither heard nor talked to by those who have the responsibility to mould them. The youth are too hateful of old people, who take too long to cross the street and cannot read traffic signs. The aged have run out of ideas, out of energy, out of time and out of shape. The youth are convinced they will stay young forever, and the aged believe they will rule forever!
We are too greedy – from the highest officials to the lowest. This is made worse by the fact that we do not have spiritual leaders to guide us towards a better life. Unlike in South Africa where strong religious leaders speak the truth to the ANC, Namibia does not have theologians to prophesy deliverance in the new context. Our priests and pastors who are white have no voice any more, for fear their criticism will be labeled as unrepentant racism. The black clergy is compromised by the State that co-opts them to open all gatherings with prayer and sit at the head table. Equally, there is no moral or progressive voice from the private sector, which fears that speaking will be seen as oppositional or harbouring what Julius Malema would call a ‘colonial mentality’.
We have a deep dependency syndrome. The government depends on foreign donors to function and we depend on the government to do things for us. The Namibian government cannot hold a workshop to address national issues, cannot have training sessions for senior executives of the state, and cannot have a conference that is NOT sponsored by an outside government with outside taxpayers’ monies, while our government bureaucracy is oversized and cannibalises the meagre resources we have. Then we complain that the world does not respect us. As citizens, we look to the government to solve all our problems – especially with the current sensitivity of the government in relation to free education, old-age pension pay-outs, the child grant, the war veterans’ fund, drought relief and the food bank! Unfortunately these ‘good things’ destroy the potential for a work ethic towards sustainable development and citizens’ obligations to grow the economy.
We are victims of self-hate culture and practices. An African girl in rural Namibia, who has not seen a hair salon where women emerge with the longest and shiniest Brazilian hair, cannot grow up with confidence, imagining herself to be beautiful one day. Whenever she sees female government officials, they have overgrown hair, while none of her family members looks like that. And no one tells her what is going on. In order for this child to be beautiful, elegant and valuable, she “must look” different from the way God made her.
She begins to hate herself. She hates God. No wonder we have so many problems in our homes. No other cultures thrive on imitations, as we Afrikans do, and yet we continue to blame colonialism for everything. We know these hair creations and the churches that serve as their marketers did not exist during colonialism and apartheid. At least we were ourselves!
If these were the 12 major problems we have to tackle, where would we begin? How would we go about confronting them? If we could start fixing one or a few of these, we would be well on the way going somewhere. Good luck to all of us!