In every sphere of life you come across heroes – people who will go beyond and above the call of duty to bring about change in their communities and societies, who take on the load that none of us can or are simply too self-absorbed to care. You see them at the school PTA meetings volunteering to organise a fundraiser to keep the school’s library from shutting down. You see them at the local church, being their brother’s keeper and helping widows and other vulnerable people in distress. I have met plenty of such people in my journalistic career. Often, I wondered if such people are a rare breed. What is it about them that they give of themselves so selflessly? In 2006, when my cameraman, Lamech Mwanyangapo and I first reported on the alarming drought that faced by the Ovatue community, viewers were amazed at the dire circumstances of a lost generation. The government swiftly mobilised resources, provided modest accommodation, trained some of their own to become community health promoters and provide the basics for self-sustaining agricultural projects. At the forefront of this work was former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Liberthine Amathila. Those who know her from the days of exile during the fight for liberation, can attest to her love for the people and her ability to connect across classes. During this time, she threw caution to the wind and spent her nights sleeping under the stars at the makeshift camps set up in some of the remote, mountainous areas of the Kunene. She lived among the locals. She toiled with them. They adored her for that.
Real-life heroes like Dr. Amathila stand out from the crop because they resist labels and titles and to be called ‘Mr’ this or ‘Hon’ that. They move mountains and influence others positively along the way. This is what my good friend Saki Nicodemus reminds us when he says that we are all leaders irrespective of position or title. We all have the power to influence the direction the organisation takes. You may say that Dr Amathila had the government and resources by her side to do the kind of things she did. You may well be right. Yet, truth be told, had she not championed this project from the start, it would have dissipated quickly. Her presence was a game changer in the work done by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister from 2005-2010. The budgetary commitments to the Special Projects Programme substantiates this. After her exit from active politics, these projects have neither enjoyed the attention nor do they command the resources they once did. After ending her political career, Dr. Amathila has continued to work in other parts of the Kunene. She recently built a hostel for one of the schools to cater for marginalised, nomadic children and has continued to supervise the work personally in those rural parts. She makes regular visits there and speaks passionately about the importance of educating the girl child.
The cameras do not follow her at all times. But then, I think she does not care whether her philanthropic works is beamed for all to see. Perhaps, her rewards come from seeing the downtrodden gain a respectful place in our society. The much-heralded Harambee Prosperity Plan launched earlier this week by the President requires a similar mindset for it to succeed. There needs to be a buy-in from society about what the plan entails and how we all can contribute to it. It appears that this fact is not lost on the Presidency, for there has been an attempt to rally the nation behind this vision of renaissance, encapsulated in the mantra ‘no one should be left out’. Experiencing all these far from my usual vantage point, I hold the view that the plan’s success hinges on whether it will be business as usual or not. And this does not only apply to the civil service but the entire nation. Our success depends on whether Namibians can muster the last bit of resolve and rise above the chronic cynicism that has held us back for far too long. The time is ripe for our champions to rise. They must rise in our ministries, agencies and offices and commit to doing things differently – men and women who avow to end the complacency that has plagued us for so long. Those who seek to put our nation first, before their own friends and relatives in procurement processes.
Those who live among the people and appreciate the full extent of the challenges that remain to lift us out of poverty. Those who not seek to gain advantage by luring hapless civil servants in divulging tender information. Those true champions who go the extra mile to make us a winning nation. We need to bring forth a culture that blames no one but ourselves for our malaise. Therein lies the spirit that is required to be a winning nation.
Kazembire Zemburuka is a broadcaster by profession, currently a post-graduate student in the UK. These comments are made in his personal capacity.