The Bible teaches that ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God’. In modern consultant-speak this means that structure follows the strategy, not the other way around. The ancient Chinese guru and erstwhile sage, Sun Tzu had an instructive saying about the business of war. In his seminal treatise, ‘The Art of War’, Sun Tsu wrote: ‘To win a war without fighting it is best”. This teaching is as true now as it was then.
Human beings build and sustain civilizations by norms and values based upon a set of rules and precepts accepted by a critical mass of inhabitants of any given territory on this planet earth. Without these commonly accepted and as a guide, it is impossible to have a sense of a Bonum Commune, the common good and in the absence of this common good chaos, disorder, and lawlessness ensue with an unavoidable outcome: the survival of the fittest—a world wherein the most powerful, the most cunning, the most manipulative, survives better at the expense of the finest and all.
This is where the Land of the Brave is at right now. We must admit that the one thing that kept us going, yes with challenges now and then, is the steadfastness of the liberation movement turned political/ruling party SWAPO to remain steadfast to its constitutive principles, rules and values. One such value is that rules were above people and everybody was treated under the same rules. The other is that once a decision was taken by the leadership, that decision was binding on all, including the top leaders and those who were not favoured by such decision. The most significant of SWAPO’s principled options that saved us all is the discussion SWAPO took in Angola in the middle of 1989 before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, therefore before the fall of Marxism-Leninism, that national reconciliation was not negotiable in a free Namibia. This is before Nelson Mandela’s stance of national reconciliation. This means that SWAPO deserves more credit on reconciliation than the African National Congress which embraced national reconciliation when there was much less choice under the circumstances after the collapse of socialism as an alternative to capitalism in a mono-polar world.
Now Namibia is governed without rules. Only preferences of the most powerful. In the absence of clear and purposeful rules and guidelines, a civilization is bound to suffer an inherent inability to sustain itself over time, never mind get passed on to the next generations with a sense of self-worth, pride and a glue that holds together meaningful mutual relationships. Clear guidelines assist members of any community to predict consequences, be it reward or punishment, of good and bad behaviour and such members are in a position to engage in meaningful interactions with others in ways that nurture the foundation for a better life for all. Without a set of clear precepts to guide and mould positive human behaviour, the end result is an expansion of a collection of people without a memory, without a history and a culture to illuminate the road it has traversed. Such a people are without a past, without a soul and are a dead nation without a compass to navigate its way into an unknown future.
This is one reality Nelson Mandela understood well as he tried to build the foundation for a non-racial, non-sexist South Africa. One great foundation he laid was to rearrange the behaviour of the officials in the business of the state. For instance, he refused to copy the typical African pompous so-called protocol of treating the President as King to be feared and celebrated above all. Mandela never required his cabinet ministers to see him off at the airport when travelling and receive him upon his return. His administration never required resident ambassadors to be at the airport for him either, as he understood that the time that it would take for all these esteemed servants of their nations to travel to the airport and wait for him would be wasting of meagre resources needed for development projects.
Out of self-respect and the respect of his country men and women, Mandela never went to the airport to receive a visiting head of state, including the Queen of Great Britain and Pope John Paul ll when they visited South Africa. His guests would be received by the Foreign Minister and one or two cabinet ministers at the airport who would deliver them to a proper official reception at the Presidential Guest House. And there were photos of visiting Presidents or Kings on lamp posts along the streets of Pretoria, as Mandela understood that such costs money that would be better spent on assisting the vulnerable members of society rather than on his family and his friends’ faces. Rules and the constitutions of institutions were important to Mandela, who understood, among other things, that the honorary doctorates were an honour granted by a university, and therefore not to be used as a title in everyday life. The recipient of an honorary doctorate is a doctor only when he/she is at that university which gave him/her that degree, not everywhere. This is why Mandela never paraded himself as DOCTOR Mandela even though at the time of his passing, he had received more than 130 honorary doctoral degrees from universities around the world.