In the life of every nation, there comes a time when its leaders, that is those members from the communities entrusted with the custodianship of the values of integrity of the people sit down and answer the question: Where are we?
This question is an offshoot of the question God Himself posed to Adam upon the realisation that the two first residents of the planet earth had begun to go astray. God asked Adam the question: ‘Adam, Adam, where are you?’ Instead of answering a ‘where question’ geographically by stating the location where he was, Adam offered a sociological answer: ‘I am naked.’ God is asking where we are as a nation twenty-six years after the attainment of our national selfhood.
One of the most distinguished diplomats Namibia has produced, who shall remain unnamed to protect him from repercussions, recently asked a very vexing question in an informal conversation. ‘Is it part of our Namibian culture not to stand up as a witness against injustice?’ He posed this question casually without realising the depth and significance thereof. By extension, the question is: Is it part of Afrikan culture or tradition to look the other way when abuse takes place as long as it does not affect us directly? Differently put: Are human beings by their very nature such that they are unwilling to raise their hands when they witness abuse or injustice that does not touch them, their families or their financial success? In recent times, Namibians have witnessed a wave of abuse of power and official indifference towards those who are disaffected by political power, but those who see and know of these abuses choose to remain silent because it does not affect them directly, or for fear that they might be next.
Where are we in Namibia, and what are the issues we can name that ‘good men’ are doing nothing about? We are becoming a dangerously divided nation with a denialist leadership that is either indifferent to the plight of the people or unwilling to hear the increasingly loud cries across the nation.
1. Nation-building: The process of building the nation with due consideration of the parts that constitute the nation and the issues these parts face, has ceased and is being replaced with praise-singing and hand-clapping (omake).
Political party arrogance and hubris are larger than the nation and its symbols. We are a free nation now and no longer fighting a foreign rule, yet we remain violently divided along political party lines. When the leaderships of the nation assemble in various places, one sees political party uniforms instead of national symbols. There is no national symbol that Namibians can don other than their divisive political party scarfs. This might sound simplistic to fanatic party members, but this is dangerous if we wish to build a nation that can stand in the family of nations.
2. Tribalism and Ethnicity: Whether we like it or not, our first identities came through tribe and ethnicity. Most of the assumptions we make and prejudices we carry are informed by the paths along which we traveled as races, tribes, ethnic groups, gender and sexual orientations. Our narratives of the political struggles are not sufficient to account for the totalities of our complex realities. There is more to our being than our memories of the struggles, most of which are edited lies. Even Europe had its fair share of tribal differences that resulted in conflict such that it took much efforts to build the present-day European nations. As we can see, tribal cleavages are tearing apart the European Union today. The most powerful nation in the world, America, is going through unexpected and unprecedented racial tensions in spite of having a black President.
3. Abuse of political power: Those in official positions of power, not because they were elected or are the best, but appointed are of a strange breed that arrogates to itself the right to hurt other Namibians who have broken no law but simply because they do not like them or are jealous of them. They use their connectedness to State House to pillage and tarnish other people.
4. Corruption: President Geingob is correct when condemning corruption and greed. Unfortunately the reality is different. Even presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia and Eduardo dos Santos of Angola are known to oppose corruption. Though Namibia has not reached the corruption levels of those countries, the scale of corrupt practices is unacceptable. The context in which corruption is growing in Namibia is very similar to South Africa when the political elite conflated political governance of the nation with wealth acquisition.
5. Absence of state protocols: It is very dangerous to have a state wherein people who are not state officials carry out state functions. There is by constitutional dictates a cabinet to advise the Head of State, at the same time the Head of State is entitled to have a few advisors who assist him with immediate tasks, yet they are not state officials who are entitled to state privileges such as official cars and drivers. That is not state behaviour. Advisors are technical people who are there to assist the President, not to replace cabinet ministers in state official business nationally and internationally. It is awkward to see advisors replacing ministers by addressing the nation, the cabinet and diplomatic community as we saw on the day of the Harambee review.