President Hage Geingob was again shoved into the spotlight this week after his leaked letter to Labour Minister Erkki Nghimtina became a social media sensation.
In the letter President Geingob requested that the Social Security Commission (SSC)’s Development Fund release N$11.3 million to facilitate the training of about 1 000 unemployed young Namibians, labelled ‘struggle kids’, who were born in exile during the country’s liberation struggle.
Without substantiating their claims, armchair critics, backed up by the boo boys of Namibian politics, castigated Geingob and even pushed matters as far as claiming the request bordered on corruption and fraud.
The media, rather sensationally, even questioned why government “fast-tracked” the setting up of a bank account in which this money was to be kept. Is it fast-tracking or efficiency that we have all along demanded from government?
Interestingly – and whether by default or design – the press, with the exception of this newspaper, failed to list expenditures involved in the training, such as the N$250 000 monthly bill in allowances to the trainees.
At a glance – considering some of these trainees would receive three meals a day in addition to training equipment and other logistical expenses – it would seem that N$11.3 million is a pittance.
Sensationally, some accused Geingob of using government money to solve Swapo problems, because, in the naivety of the faultfinders, government has no business helping desperate Namibians.
Yet, some of these charlatans were the very same people who sang the chorus of criticism a year ago that Geingob did not care for the plight of the struggle kids, some of whom walked all the way from the North to meet the President in person to communicate the socio-economic challenges they face.
Citizens’ right to demand accountability from their leaders, including the President, cannot be overemphasised. Geingob accepted the job knowing full well that each of his actions would be closely scrutinised to ensure it is above board and in the best interest of the country. Nobody said it was going to be a bed of red roses.
But lately, criticism against Geingob has reached ridiculous proportions and supersedes logic.
It has gotten to a point where we wonder whether the sustained search for faults is directed merely against Geingob the man, or – we dare say – against Namibia as a whole.
Accusing the President of corruption for trying to immediately lift 1 000 people out of poverty is a slap in the face of our collective effort to make Namibia a better place for all.
True, citizens must continue to demand accountability from Geingob and his entire government. They must do so unapologetically and without fear or favour. But criticism should be well-meant and aimed at making Namibia a better place – not to score cheap political points or for the sake of expediency.
Many struggle kids lost their parents on the battlefront. Many were rejected by their families upon their return to Namibia from exile and have endured terrible circumstances as a result.
Many are now in their late 30s and early 40s, but even at that age they have not had even a bite at the national cake – a cake that their parents shed blood for. How can we be so cold that we scorn any attempt to help fellow Namibians?
Perhaps the biggest lesson government must learn from this episode is the importance of communicating key messages. The President’s decision to help was, from our vantage point, taken in good faith. However, withholding such crucial information until it is leaked creates pandemonium, unnecessary fear and suspicion.
By withholding information that is clearly in the public interest, the government inadvertently proivded ammunition to its adversaries and political opportunists. And, yes, the armchair critics had a field day.