The past five years have been an eye-opener regarding intentions of many Namibians who ply their trade in politics.
From financiers of political campaigns to sloganeers, there has been a buffet of evidence to cement the notion that politics is no longer about ideologies and change, but what is in it for such role players.
President Hage Geingob, after he took over the reins of the state in 2015, had to face unprecedented demands by individuals who claimed to have been his footsoldiers prior to the 2012 elective congress.
Essentially, they are admitting that they did not consider the president’s qualities and abilities when they chose to rally behind him, but rather undermined his moral fortitude by thinking he will return them favours – in the form of public resources.
Since then, there has been anger towards the president, best portrayed by attacks against him on every available platform, mostly social media. To many, having shouted ‘Viva Hage’ during campaigns warranted favours, such as such as public office, jobs, contracts, subsidies, prestige or other valued benefits.
Such individuals are not in short supply and, inevitably, the president will face another wave of these demands. A great number of people who worked their hands off in the just ended campaign will have their eyes popped out to see what Geingob has in store for them.
Many supporters of the losing candidates harboured the same expectations. They had their castles built in the air and imaginary farms calves running and milk flowing. When politicians of morality do now fulfil such expectations, such clients avenge in frustration.
What many people fail to understand is that being a patron does not transfer national resources into your private ownership. To therefore expect that the patron indiscriminately dish out national resources to cronies is shocking as it is corrupt.
One of the challenges facing President Geingob in the next seven years, therefore, would be how to manage such parochial expectations and those of the entire populace.
Suffice to say – and we’re glad President Geingob stated this in his acceptance speech on Monday – that those who did not assist candidates in campaigns remain citizens with full rights, as those who shouted ‘Viva’. This type of patronage is not necessarily illegal, but it may rise to the level of corruption if it gives an individual or group some private advantage that is contrary to the public interest.
Controversial examples of corrupt patronage include the infamous Pacific Scandal of 1873, the Beauharnois Scandal of 1930–32 and the Sponsorship Scandal of the 1990s and 2000s, all traced to Canada.
In the first two cases, individuals linked with political parties privately benefited from major public works projects in a manner generally considered contrary to the public interest. In the Sponsorship Scandal, federal funds earmarked for advertising in Québec went to Liberal-friendly ad agencies and loyalists for little or no work and in some cases were funnelled back to the Liberal Party.
It is our hope, therefore, that the aftermath of the Swapo congress would be managed in such a way that campaigners do not put undue pressure on winners by demanding favours and preferential benefits.
If it is the wish of all citizens to see Namibia proper, we must give the necessary support to all those in leadership – including all those who were elected at the Swapo congress – for them to manage fulfilling their promises to the masses.