There is a great deal of consternation in the nation about the state of wellbeing its citizens. Yet it would appear that those in power are in denial that we are in trouble and are inclined to call those who see and say naysayers. This consternation makes healing very difficult. As it is always the case, political leaders like their own public relations affirmed as the truth, and blame their failures on others, the outsiders. The reality is that leaders need not fear the truth, as it is not entirely their fault that we are in trouble.
This national illness that needs to be addressed has been coming for as long we have been a free nation and before. This illness cannot and will not tackled unless and until there is an honest admission that we are sick. In the Holy Bible (Matt. 9:12 and Mark 2:17), there is a lesson by the Master Himself wherein He instructed: ‘It is not the healthy who needs a doctor, but the sick’.
In science, the search for a treatment of a disease starts with an honest assessment and thorough diagnosis of its history, evolution and its possibilities of spreading. This is important so that the treatment is properly situated and prevention is made possible. In Namibia’s body politic, we are pretending that the so-called Namibian House is strong, whereas it is not. If you want to know how the house is, ask those who are kept outside.
It is most unfortunate that and when those who are ‘included out’ express their indisposition, they are blamed as the cause of the disease. Just last week the Head of State admitted to the nation our government bureaucracy is top-heavy and oversized, yet he blamed the past colonialism for it. How is it the fault of apartheid that we a nation of just over 2 million people have over 25 ministers, plus thirty two Deputy Ministers, plus an Executive President plus an Executive Vice-President, plus an Executive Prime Minister, plus an Executive Deputy Prime-Minister, plus 35 Permanent Secretaries, plus 34 international missions, plus who knows how many advisors we have all over the place! Even a Namcol drop-out can figure out the monstrous government has outgrown the population and therefore just does not make sense. This points to a typical problem with us Afrikans, that we simply do not understand the role of the state in a Republic, when we think the state if for job creation for political yet altogether incompetent comrades who are there to eat and die.
We have quarreled enough. We have called one another enough names. We have stolen enough. We have accumulated enough experience with both good governance as well as bad governance. Let us agree that we have hurt one another enough by now, and know enough to start from as a strong basis of information and knowledge management. We need to agree on the fundamentals of our illness so that we can seek proper cure, and a cure that can last. The signs are all over following the enormous excitement that followed the 2014 elections. After the inauguration in 2015, the nation took a serious nose-dive for the worse. Self-triumphalism, scapegoating, name-calling, growing intolerance and grandstanding came to represent the political language of the state.
Now we are quarreling over symptoms and descriptions of the toxic environment that we are all in. We therefore need to ask ourselves sober questions that can help us to move in the direction of finding a solution or solutions—for the common good of all citizens.
The first stop on this journey is to figure out when we got sick. In our 2017 Namibia, twelve out of ten people would say that the country is going in the wrong direction. Differently put, when did our troubles begin, is perhaps more constructive than who started the troubles as the latter question will not take us anywhere helpful. There are different arguments given to answer this pertinent question. Here are some of the sign- posts of our illness, depending on where we are in relation to the powers that be and indeed our stomachs.
• The troubles started from the beginning when we sort of inherited a system that was put in
place for purposes of oppression and did not adjust or panel beat it to suit the circumstances of a Third World, post-colonial, post-apartheid, post- Bantustan, post-war socio-economic system with set mindsets based upon hostility and gross ignorance about one another as a nation. We continued to celebrate an economic system that could not serve the interests of the masses of our people, but the few elites who have made it and became the black white men. We govern with a false consciousness that some are more Namibian than others, and therefore our needs, rights and obligations are not the same. We never attempted a national reorientation by which we would have assisted to rehabilitate those who were brutally scarred by fear and those who in the dark days hurt or even killed fellow Namibians, many of who are in the high offices of the state and cannibalized the political space. These people’s primordial instincts to deal with disagreement is to dismiss, and cause the ‘other’ to disappear literally and figuratively.
• The template of our national resource management is based upon idioms of the past, ‘Us versus
Them’ and suspicion, and the youth and the future are sacrificed on the altar of struggle credentials, correct and false. In this climate, the selected few who are tasked with the hard work of building a nation are grossly incompetent, yet there is no national formula to guarantee that only the best and talented are given the fortuitous responsibility of presiding over the affairs and well-being of the nation.
• The model of political leadership we have developed since independence is at variance with the precepts and prescriptions of a constitutional democracy. A Republic is based on the self-evident truths of social justice, equal opportunity and equal participation and social justice. The project of democratic governance is the project of the ‘common man’, and not the preserve of a special class of people who are more equal than others, and who feel great by making others feel small. We are governed by old-style political and guilt-tripping propaganda and self-serving ‘public relations speak’. In other words while our leaders formally mouth the slogan of One Namibia-One Nation, the substance of their behavior and practice is exclusion, tribalism and marginalization of ‘non- members’.
• We have failed to learn from world history that durable organizations, such as nations, need
anchors and champions whose language and conduct epitomize the high values of the organization. Namibia never developed champions of a new society outside of Swapo political self-serving ethos which was necessary at a certain time. This is the background of the anti-democracy mentality that political survival depends on obsequiousness to unwritten rules of ‘Fear the Big/Perfect Man’ who owns everybody and who can do no wrong. This is the death knell of Namibia’s future democracy compared to South Africa where the ANC has evolved with an intra-party democracy in its long political culture. Namibia, be it in the governing party Swapo or what is left of opposition parties, does not have strong custodians of our national values. What we have are champions of political party sectarian interests and chauvinism. And for this we shall pay a high price in times to come.
• We have allowed stagnation of our economy by keeping the leadership in the same hands, and
Worse, by having in charge of the fiscus people who had no clue about finances and the complexities of an economy. These people were puppeteered to simply carry out instructions of their appointing masters. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, to evoke Malcolm X. The rut we face now has been coming over the years and we hoped that it will not show. In Afrika, things stay the same till they fall apart, wrote Keith Richburg. Leadership consultants constantly tell us that craziness is the art of doing things the same way all the time and expecting different results. This is the way we have come, and the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.