We are living in one of the most challenging periods in Namibia’s democratic life. The decaying and maladies of post-independence Afrika we used to read about in history are now upon us. No one – except those who sing for their lunch – can truly say that we are in a good space right now. We are not. We are in a virtual and surrealistic Donald Trump world, wherein no day passes without hearing or reading some scandalous and distasteful story about abuse of power or the maladministration.
Corruption is no longer in dispute or a subject of mere gossip. Corruption is now honourable. Senior government officials have their oily fingers in state coffers and take homes and weekend farms that belong to the poor. Today, they do this with impunity, knowing that nothing will happen to them, and the nation keeps wondering why!
The a-loota-continua at the SME Bank and graft in various offices, ministries and state agencies through the amorphous tender processes, through which high officials enrich themselves, with no action whatsoever taken by the President or anybody in government, is now the normal.
I am certain that our political leaders regret that there is no white man to blame for all this. The current chapter of our national life is something the future generations will definitely hate us for.
Here are more areas of our collective failures:
TARGETTING THE WRONG ENEMIES: It is said that states become strong and mature when there is a common enemy against which national energies are spent to protect the interests of the nation. It would appear that after we attained our cherished independence, we never moved beyond the old schisms of us versus them, this time without real grounds for disagreement, except our greed. That is that we do not want to share what is collectively ours. The same people who have been eating wish to continue eating – alone.
EDUCATION: In all modern systems, leadership’s education policies are one of the yardsticks for running for office. It is the education enterprise that determines and molds the future generations for their own roles and participation in the lives of their societies. The governing party is now zigzagging on its own announcement that primary education is free.
There is still no template on how to make primary education free and compulsory, so that the children loitering in the streets and villages are kept busy in classrooms. Opposition parties ought to have congratulated the governing party on that progressive step and augmented this good development with new forward-looking policies and programmes. All of us should support this government thinking and not allow certain developments to frustrate the efforts and create room for instability in this country.
For instance, a school like Windhoek International School that is charging beginner learners over N$95,000 per year (N$8,000 per month) for classroom tuition only should be called to order, because it is inconsistent with the spirit of affordable free education for Namibian citizens. Political leaders seem oblivious to this kind of unfairness, even if it is a private school, as all schools must comply with the laws of the State.
DECENTRALISATION: Political leaders and parties are not heard on what they are proposing in terms of taking government and services closer to the people. The signs are that what is happening is the opposite of decentralisation. For instance, the development that the President appoints regional governors, who do not represent the regions, but listen in for the President is contrary to democracy and decentralization.
All political leaders must be elected by the people to whom they remain accountable at all times. Civil society, the private sector and churches are deathly silent on this dangerous development of taking State House to the regions, instead of bringing the regions to State House. No wonder this is beginning to lessen the confidence levels of people in the regions in central government. This can only lead to instability.
RESOURCE UTILISATION: Resources are meager, even with the odd international description that it is a ‘middle income country’, Namibia is in fact a developing country. It is incumbent upon us to learn to do more with less. A culture of financial frugality is what keeps better democracies working, whereas uncontrolled and wasteful expenditure of meager resources is what kills development in our Afrika.
Our political leaders have inherited models of government expenditure from bad experiences in Afrika. For instance, the practice of expecting cabinet ministers and heads of diplomatic missions to accompany the President to the airport when he travels and receive him upon his return is both uneconomical and unintelligent in the context of dwindling resources that need to help the nation. In fact it makes us in Afrika a laughing stock in countries where we go to beg for financial assistance and they do not have these practices, because the understanding there is that whatever resources are available must be utilised to help the needy.