We pause to say goodbye to Tatekulu Herman Toivo yaTovo, the co-founder of what later became a gallant liberation movement that shaped not only the history of this nation, but became synonymous with erudite treatises in international law to date.
Herman ya Toivo was the most significant symbol in the case of South West Africa in international tribunals, just like Nelson Mandela was in the case of South Africa before freedom. All those who are speaking about the life of Tatekulu Ya Toivo are saying lofty things about this fallen hero who to all intents and purposes represented the people of Namibia beyond the confines of tribe, religion, gender, race and political party affiliation. In his latter days, Tatekulu exhibited a sad twinkle in his eye about the state of affairs of the nation today. In his genteel nonagenarian style, he was saying that the Swapo that we are led by today, is not the Swapo that he once dreamed to become a home for all Namibians.
It is both important and necessary that we through his gentility, try to hear what the nation is saying right now. In his most unassuming manner as a living ancestor, he wished to bequeath unto us and the youth in particular, a sense of responsibility to think beyond the self, even if it required sacrifice and suffering, as he so admirably endured throughout his life.
One way to show him our deepest respect is to be honest in naming what we see, what we hear and what we discern. Tatekulu was a decent man, honest with himself and those around him, even to the extent that he was self-effacing for the common good. The state of our nation is not in good health right now.
What went wrong with the lofty goals of Solidarity, Freedom and Justice so ably punctuated by the gallant Swapo liberation movement? A growing chorus of people, within and without the current Swapo leadership, are in unison in admitting that what we have currently is not the Swapo they once knew. Most people blame it on the current party leaders with varying degrees of disenchantment and condemnation. It is therefore important for us all in our capacity as good and law-abiding citizens, and not so much as political party members, to do a proper diagnosis of the illness in which we all are now, before we fix it. We are all citizens first –leaders and followers as well as cynical opposition formations alike, we are in trouble together.
One: We never learn to work with the best and continue to reinvent the wheel and still call it the wheel. For instance, the first crop of ministers and permanent secretaries in President Nujoma’s team were quality men and women. Instead of building upon that rock, we caused everything to deteriorate to mediocrity to blind loyalty to no contribution to fearpreneurship to jobs for comrades at the expense of national development and codification of national interests. This practice is costing us now dearly. Sadly, Namibians are willing to accept an assignment even if they know that they are not up to it. This intellectual dishonesty is costing us now in that the bureaucracy simply grows bigger and hydra-headed in quantity at the expense of quality.
Two: It is true that our government management is not buttressed and accompanied by true public administration institutions with attendant importance of project management. Most of our state functionaries are sheer appointees of someone and they go to work in fear of the appointing master instead of following the language and dictates of strong institutions that are no respecters of human faces. Ask Donald Trump in a few months’ time to explain what it means that institutions are stronger than the individuals. In our case people think that they work for someone, and that somebody is not the Namibian citizens or taxpayers. In the end our public finance management is predicated on the assumption that political parties do not fear the people, but the people fear political parties. We have made certain choices and decisions that are now beginning to hurt us as a nation without a National Project. We have developed a political culture where knowledge and the contribution are not as important as party membership and blind loyalty. Hence our democracy is upside down and our national development planning strictly haphazard and episodic.
Three: As a nation, we have lost sight of the bigger picture. All of us are centrally preoccupied with our own praise-singing and grandstanding, either because we have power or we have acquired wealth so much so that we are not ashamed even when we know that we are in positions of power not because we are the best, but because we snaked our ways through dishonest or cruel means. Hence we use power and material wealth to intimidate and manipulate others to accept us as legitimate post-liberation icons. Our intellectual and moral dishonesty goes so far that many of us cannot say no to appointments even when we know that we are not capable of doing what we are appointed to do. Both the appointer and the appointee are dishonest, yet continue to do things they know cannot serve the nation’s interests. Hence the nation is suffering the consequences of gross incompetencies in our legislative and executive organs of government.
Four: Most of us as Afrikans are victims of the fear of the unknown. Hence we are focalised in the idioms of yesterday and yesteryear, cloaked in the rhetoric of the struggle for liberation such that even those who were not born when the struggle was not a hobby, are now claiming to have been part of it. We forget that the art of democracy is about managing uncertainty and going into an unknown future with rules and institutions, not persons who thrive on spooky and bangmaakstories.
Five: In the last 27 years, we have failed to establish strong institutions as pillars of a democratic state. Instead, we continue to rely on fallible storytellers as our most reliable anchors. As they age and forget and even die, we are left without the foundations that can sustain us and our systems. We thus fall upon you-know-what – the politics of the belly? Then the one who causes more fear is the strongest – something that is wholly unsavoury and unsustainable. And when the chips fall down and we are called out to account for why we are the problem, we blame it on history –colonialism. Or agents of imperialism. Yes the imperialism that is long dead. Kaput!
Six: Greed has become our most loyal companion. We seem not to have enough to eat – even after we are served three meals a day, we still want more, at the expense of others and social justice. How can the same people want everything all the time? The same political leaders are in business to frustrate the genuine entrepreneurs who wish to find solutions to problems and make a profit. No, it is the politician, the same member of parliament who is everywhere hassling for business. The political leader has become a cannibal! Maybe this has to do with our past of poverty. But other people in other civilizations were poor too but when they got power they used it to help others, not to eat all and alone until there is nothing left to steal. Eh, mbadi wakukuta?
Seven: We continue to practise tribalism while we claim to be against tribalism. Just check how executive members of our system appoint to boards of directors and other entities people who speak their language or come from their ethnic group. Tribalism is so official that all our regional governors are appointed on a tribal basis. Some state offices may as well not use the official language English since all in the office speak the same language, yet there is no state mechanism to stamp this out.
Eight: Those who can do not serve our leaders due to a lack of common ground. The leaders do not know who and how to ask for help for fear that they will be ridiculed, and those who can help are either too arrogant to appreciate that leaders do not have to know everything but know where and how to use competent people to achieve the national objectives. In the end there is no conversation between skills and leadership so much so that leadership is going one direction and skills the other direction. Our inability to craft strategies for sustainable development is due to the reality that those with ideas are not allowed to contribute. Instead we assemble people who have no knowledge or skills to assist with development planning simply because they are in the neighbourhood or are friends of someone.
Nine: We never stretch our imagination and considerations about leadership beyond the known faces, and in so doing we restrict ourselves to the business we are familiar with and never venture forward. We keep doing the usual business and continue to get the same results – no progress. We keep on going forward in reverse, hoping and even claiming that we are covering some ground.
Ten: We lack an ideological rectitude base and the fierce urgency of now as the basis of a better future! We care more about yesterday. Not today. Not tomorrow. Hence our succession planning is woefully underdeveloped, anti-youth and anti-future. In the past, our ancestors used to look after us. Not anymore, because they do not understand equality, the internet, globalisation and Donald Trump! One day we shall have to explain why we allowed this malaise to destroy the strong foundation upon which we started.