The presidency this week shared with the nation some good news that the country is on a path to economic recovery, following more than a year of devastating recession that has been tormenting the world economy. That there are signs of recovery brings some relief.
The measures taken, sometimes painfully, to keep our heads above the stormy waters of economic crisis, are commendable. Development economists like to hammer home the notion of problem-driven solutions – and they’d be pleased with how Namibia excelled at this in recent months.
The expenditure cuts and other fiscal consolidation measures taken would probably not have taken place were it not for the recession. We now need to build on these measures and not crawl back into our old cocoons of wastefulness and the abuse of scarce resources.
The announcement of signs of economic recovery came hot on the heels of the resignation of Bernadus Swartbooi from the ruling party last week, days after he had been recalled from the National Assembly.
This was after the former deputy minister of lands stated publicly that he was no longer a Swapo member, announcing confidently that he was “99.9 percent no longer Swapo”. That is his right.
His resignation from the ruling party saw his supporters in the south of the country taking to the streets to burn their Swapo membership cards and party regalia, some of them sporting the images of President Hage Geingob.
It was an ugly scene, which symbolised the darkest political days of the Geingob administration, but one that was largely inevitable. Anyone who goes public to say they no longer belong to the party is bound to be recalled from serving on the party ticket in parliament – whatever that party is.
President Geingob was then accused of not applying the rules equally across the spectrum, with claims that other high-profile officials accused of making tribal remarks, such as the governors of Omaheke and Omusati, were never fired but only asked to tender apologies.
Geingob used his press conference this week to put things into perspective.
Firstly, he clarified that Swartbooi was never reprimanded for tribal utterances, but for the remarks he made in relation to his then line minister, Utoni Nujoma. Secondly, the President chronicled the series of attempts he made to amicably rectify the situation.
Essentially, he was left with no choice but to let the deputy minister go. We admire the leadership shown by President Geingob in this matter, but also the principled stance taken by Swartbooi, whether right or wrong.
What we did not admire during this rather heated exchange was the manner and tone that characterised the debate. It’s good to maintain political etiquette when polite decorum prevails. When sharp tongues go unguided, they threaten the peaceful and harmonious existence of nations.
We agree that political issues should be debated vigorously and often. For the improvement of society, policy issues must be debated – but in a manner that does not destroy what is left of our society.
Brett and Kate McKay, authors of ‘The Art of Manliness’, argue that being able to reasonably discuss the political issues of the day is still a vital and essential part of being a well-rounded, well-educated, person.
Indeed, one of the expressed purposes of education throughout history was to equip men (and women) to be able to hold their own in the political forum. Namibia must continue to not only survive the economic and political storms, but must win the decisive battles for clarity and cohesion too.