Voltaire, a philosopher of the enlightenment, implores us to cultivate our garden. The extension of Voltaire’s vocabulary is a concern for a people to be seized with the affairs of a republic, and improve on the state of the nation.
A culture of entitlement, victimhood and unprovoked anger will not improve our state of affairs. Nor are these helpful for the quality and depth of our democracy. On 11 April 2018, President Hage G. Geingob delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA), in which he buoyantly emphasized several signature themes that are hallmarks of his presidency.
First, in the overall framing, and in emphasis was not only the performance of government during the period under review – but the intensity and the urgency with which the plight of our young people ought to be seen, and acted upon in the coming months and years.
Second, the President sought to highlight the penetration of the social protection architecture government had extended to the most vulnerable sectors of the population, including the elderly, the poor and persons living with disability.
Third, by highlighting a Namibian perspective of Africa and the world, the President was deliberate in articulating our diplomacy in a manner consistent with the immediate directive elements of our [international relations] policy, including poverty eradication, inward investment flows and an equitable international system through, among others, the reform of the United Nations Security Council.
With Namibia assuming the SADC chairmanship in August 2018, the SONA underscored the renewal of Namibia’s constructive role in regional and global affairs. Namibia’s role in dealing with regional challenges, including peace and security, will be called upon and will become emboldened and vital.
Still, on the subject of international relations, the President returned Namibians to Voltaire’s notion on the “cultivation of our garden”, reminding us that the ability of the country to influence African and global affairs would be intimately tied to its own domestic achievements and success, of which poverty reduction and shared prosperity are key.
What will guide the President’s external engagements remains the articulation of national considerations and actions within the SADC region, the African Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and bilateral partners. It is why it is necessary at this hour that we, as a country, locate our challenges within the frame of what is possible in the domestic arena.
Yet, a domestic focus should not be divorced from an outward-looking perspective of the solutions available to us as a developing country.
In light of the above, the SONA is pivotal as one of many communication platforms in the annual calendar of the President. As part of the expressions of the sovereignty of the people, the SONA is pre-eminent for its detailed accountability and priority-setting mechanisms in a multidimensional process, involving symbolic, pragmatic and structural facets in Presidential action and communication. Our Parliament in a communicative process involving all these dimensions becomes a fitting institutional platform for the extension of our national debate about Republican successes and abdications.
Moreover, the SONA’s elevation as an embodiment of the sovereignty of the Namibian people, conveyed by the President as the expression of their free will in the Parliamentary chamber, is what ought to allow other societal forces, including business, media and broader civil society, to engage the SONA with solemn intellectual and analytical clarity.
It is what we ought to do in a democracy with the SONA. Its annual repetition is an opportunity to review progress, to start afresh and to inspire a generation of Namibians to believe in a better future as a consequence of past successes and new programs providing innovative possibilities.
The SONA, an act of continuity, is also a reminder that life in a republic is a combat, and the ideal of prosperity for all shall not be optional in Presidential actions. SONA 2018, signed for the youth, is a program of action in line with the call for reckoning, with the President mobilising government to ensure that the Namibia citizen remains a priority.
The President’s prioritisation of the citizen finds further practical expressions as amplified by several weeks of consultations with several constituencies of our nation, including the youth, trade unions, industry and business, faith-based communities and professional bodies.
-Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari is Press Secretary in the Presidency.
To give credence, the President is in the process of directing annual delivery and letters of action to Ministries in order to shorten reporting periods against identified targets.
A caballeros attitude on the part of professional commentators fueling populist mischief, framing Namibia incorrectly as a state in decay, and our democracy as deceptive are unfitting. By seeking faults, it does not speak to the scale of the challenges we face, and the determination of the President to find solutions to our pressing shortcomings.
Worryingly, some of the assumptions are dispiriting, dishonest and dangerous for the future of our democracy, and our prospects for unity and shared prosperity.
It is worth mentioning that no nation can prosper when it spews cynical venom on itself, as opposed to a public conversation based on democratic respect and guiding solutions.
It is why we should continue to interrogate SONA 2018 as a mirror of our hits and misses, but also as a guidepost of what we can achieve as a young democracy in the coming months and years.