Something around the world today suggests that instability is upon us. In America most people except the Wall Street merchants of greed are seeing the perilous error that was made during the 2016 presidential elections, so much so that it seems that America will spend considerable time doing damage control of executive decisions emanating from the Trump White House. Their saving grace is that America has old and strong institutions with the capacity and wherewithal to evoke historical foundations of that country’s democracy that can call to order and fix President Donald Trump.
Namibians are not alone in the search to heal our nation that is getting sicker and sicker by the day. Namibia’s woes are deeper compared to those of America and South Africa where things in their bodies politic appear increasingly unpleasant. The main difference is that America and South Africa have older, stronger and more independent institutions to speak truth to power and sustain a democratic governance system.
Namibia, by virtue of its young age and a deafening absence of strong voices from civil society, the religious communities, the private sector and youth formations, is left to the benevolence of the ruling party Swapo’s leaders. Therefore unless something paradigmatically and conceptually changes in the way we think about citizenship and equal participation, the country is likely to degenerate into a status of a failing state.
The signs are there for all to see and discern. It would be fatal to deny it as did the former Gambian buffoon Yahya Jammeh and the sycophants around Mudhara Mugabe (Gushungo) would deny up to this day that they controlled failed states that ran everything into the ground.
It is most unfortunate that having started on a strong foundation of a multi-party system and national reconciliation, Namibia has descended into a prototype Third World One Party state where the governing party has – to all intents and purposes – is becoming a shadow of its former self.
In the last several years, a political culture has evolved with the ruling party as the owner of the truth and knowledge and anybody outside of the inner circle of the pure men and women is discarded as the great unwashed, thus to be punished and avoided, to paraphrase Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
Our failure is not the fault of the ruling party alone, but the making of all of us who have either allowed certain patterns to become our norms or disallowed certain important traits to become part of our national decorum. We have had five national and presidential elections since independence, and every time we elected leaders who constituted the system that moved away from the people. Now we are complaining that the system is not working in our favor. Like Americans are crying crocodile tears by staging demonstrations to denounce Trump whom they and their system elected as President, we refuse to take ownership of choices of people run our nation’s affairs.
Ownership is ours when things go right and when they go wrong. That is responsibility and the risks that come with it.
In essence, the biggest ill that we need to fix is the manner in which we have fashioned our democratic system such that today Namibians are not equal. The supposed Namibian House by design shuts out citizens who are perceived to think for themselves or hold a view that is different from the mainstream politically correct one. There are those who consider themselves more Namibian than others, merit and competency do not matter, political party and tribal memberships are more important than citizenship.
The fact that our leaders have more allegiance to political party symbols than national symbols is not state behavior. We thus qualify to be a failing state that needs healing ere it is too late. Before we get red eyes, let us consider what scholars consider as characteristics of a failed state. A state is classified as failing or failed when typically it is ineffective and unable to enforce its laws uniformly or cannot provide basic goods and services to its citizens, and when it exhibits the following characteristics:
* Rise of criminal and political violence (we are there)
* A loss of control over borders (not bad save for our total reliance on South Africa for food security)
* Rising tribal, ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural hostilities (we are there)
* Civil war (our official language is already bellicose filled with finger-pointing and name-calling with certain citizens named enemies of the state)
* The use of terror against own citizens (we are there as individual livelihoods are affected at the behest of the state)
* Weak institutions (we are there save for some flickering lights in the judiciary)
* A deteriorated or insufficient infrastructure (we are there)
* An inability to collect taxes without undue coercion (we are there save that the tax collector is using the carrot to cajole compliance)
* A collapsed health system (we are there)
*An education system that does not respond effectively to the socio-economic needs of the country (we have been and are there)
* Rising levels of infant mortality and declining life expectancy (we could be there)
* Irregular or decreasing schooling opportunities (we are there)
* Declining levels of GDP per capita, especially inflation (we are there)
* A widespread preference for non-national currencies (no official travels outside Namibia with Namibia Dollars)
* Basic food shortages – leading to starvation (we are there: hence the food bank)
* Leaders destroying the economic and political fabric of the country (our national leaders are in in Chinese hands for personal and family prosperity)
* Questionable legitimacy (the insecurity of any leader is a consequence of people questioning why he/she is there)
* Low political public awareness of rights and responsibilities (We are there: we want the government to do everything for us)
* Inactive citizenry (citizens participation is not based on national interests but party or personal interests)
* Fear of the Big Man (99% of our leaders are not elected but appointed and therefore believe that their lives are in the hands of the appointing master
* Overstay of executive officials at the expense of young blood with new ideas, innovation and growth (Too much of a good thing is ultimately bad)
* Increasing state spying networks (the number of spies called assets are growing as an employment opportunity as in Koevoet days))
* Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions (The culture of rule fear is here)
* Inability to provide public services (ask those who are not working if the system is working)
* Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community (Here we are doing better)
* Extreme political corruption, an impenetrable and ineffective bureaucracy, judicial ineffectiveness, military interference in politics, and cultural situations in which traditional leaders wield more power than the state over a certain area. (We are here: Not a single big fish has been take in for corruption)
We have ceased to ask the fundamental national question and about the future. After independence and unlike the older democracies did, we continue to wallow in a tombstone culture where we cherish the dead more than the living. If we worried about the future, we would have by now developed a blueprint of national governance rather than political party and tribal heroism. We would have sought counsel from fellow Afrikans who went through it all before and learned how not to do things so that we would not be repeating the same mistakes other already made.
We would not be blaming colonialism for the mess we ourselves have created over the last 27 years because we did not think things through. We would not be hurting ourselves just to get a sense of having arrived. We would not be doing things to impress the world just to make fools of ourselves with the buffoonery of nauseating self-congratulatory politics. We would instead be creating our own world with us as in the center and as agents and agencies of change. We would be more confidence in ourselves, our languages and traditions, and we would be taking responsibility for the good, the bad and the ugly.
In fact, today, we would have a leaner and merit-based government bureaucracy that is commensurate with the small size of our population so that resources would be going towards the youth, education, healthcare, agriculture safety and security and sustainable national development.
The truth is what Frantz Fanon wrote about in his Wretched of the Earth, when he pointed out prophetically that post-independence political elites in Afrika will suffer from two distinct diseases, namely intellectual laziness and spiritual bankruptcy. The intellectual laziness leaves us without an ideological basis from which to operate, thus we are caught in the whirlwind of insatiable greed and self-glory, contrary to the spirit of the liberation struggle for which many sacrificed everything.
In search of bogus legacies, we strive to recreate the wheel and still call it a wheel. We become hateful of those who have ideas to take Afrika forward, and surround ourselves with sycophants who tell us what we know already or want to hear instead of the truth.
The moral bankruptcy renders us lonely, with disorders and dissonances that drive us into dangerous liaisons with hazardous business partners whose interests are at variance with our national interests in the medium and long runs. In the end, sadly, Afrikan liberators become the albatross around their people’s necks—shamelessly. Frantz Fanon, Julius Nyerere and Thomas Sankara must be lying face-down in their graves—in shame, if not disgust!