The Editor of The Patriot, MATHIAS HAUFIKU was privileged to be granted an interview by founding President Sam Nujoma on the eve of the country’s 26th anniversary of independence.
Your life story is one dominated by politics. If you had a choice, would you have taken a different path?
SN: Well, it depends where you are and in which era you were born. I grew up at a time where there was a need for us to unite and face the enemy with vigor and determination to ensure that the people of Namibia rule themselves. Now we are happy to see young people taking over because that is what we wanted to see.
You chose to live quite a private life since leaving office. What prompted such a decision?
SN: Yes, there is a need to live a private life and also to continue to work with the people… but a private life does not mean you are excluded from participating in people’s activities.
Who are some of the people whom you looked up to, both locally and internationally?
SN: I was inspired by great leaders such as Modibo Keita from Mali, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Heile Selassie from Ethiopia and others. Another great source of inspiration back in the days for some of us who wanted Namibia to gain independence was Ghana’s attainment of independence and the founding of the Organisation of African Union.
During your Presidency, people saw you as this strong figure with perhaps little or no weaknesses. Did it worry you that people worshipped you so much and viewed you as this perfect human being?
SN: Not really, I am part of the people and I must always identify myself with the people and their activities. Even now that I am old, it does not mean I am cut off from taking part in the country’s activities.
In your view, what are the qualities of a good leader?
A good leader is one that promotes peace and stability and places development first.
What do you make of President Hage Geingob’s Presidency so far?
SN: I must say he is doing well and he is following Swapo policies of ensuring peace and development in the country. You can see he is engaging the region’s to see where the shortcomings are in the country.
It’s been 11 years since you left office, do you still follow the country’s activities closely?
SN: Well, I am still part of the people Still part of the people and I support all activities of the Swapo leaders. I would like to see Swapo’s youth taking part in party activities and also to take care of the pioneers because you the youth will replace us and the pioneers will replace you so we must keep that position.
While delivering your inaugural speech in 1990 you said “unity is a precondition for peace and development”. Of late there has been incidences of tribalism and racism in the country. What is your view regarding such incidences?
SN: We learned from our great grandfathers such as the Hendrik Witbooi’s, Samuel Maharero and Mandume Ya Ndemufayo who never compromised until they died that unity is important. They fought until the end because they were united even though they represented different of people all over the country. That gives us strength and determination to continue and ensure that we defeat the enemy and that is the message I would like to give to Namibians.
On that night you also spoke of the need for “high standards of equality and opportunities for all Namibians.” Of late government conceded that there has been income inequalities while some people claim they are not given fair chances to prosper. Should this be a concern to the country?
SN: My view is that we spend more resources on education because education is the equalizer for all. If you are educated and qualified you will be able to see the shortcomings in the country and work on it. Under the Swapo leadership we are on the right track when it comes to ensuring equality.
26 years after independence, is the nation where it is supposed to be in terms of growth?
SN: Yes. Over the years the Swapo government succeeded to ensure that every Namibian is supported by government’s policies. We did that and now we are on the right track. In life there is always difficulties because there is always some issues along the way such as natural disasters such as drought caused by no rain, this requires that we plan on a long term basis. This planning involves the construction of a state desalination plant along our Atlantic Ocean so that we do not end up in a situation where we have no water, that is one of the reasons why we should train more engineers to address such difficulties. That cannot be done with foreign influence, it must be done according to the needs of the Namibian people.
Are you happy with Namibia’s current position in terms of growth?
SN: Yes I am happy. Now I can travel all over the country by road even and the railway system covers most of the country. During apartheid the railway ended only in Tsumeb but we worked to extend up to the Angolan border.
The Vision 2030 concept was launched during your Presidency, do you think our vision of being industrialised by 2030 is still attainable because some are saying we cannot achieve it?
SN: Yes it is attainable. If you look at the curriculums taught at schools and systems put in place one can see it is possible. We should be proud as Namibians that we are in a free and independent Namibia, so we must use that to develop our country collectively and not just rely on government alone. Doubt is nothing new, during the struggle for independence the Boers thought we will not be able to run the country but we took them by surprise and showed them that we can. That is why I believe that as a united nation we can maintain peace and stability and also develop.
What is your message to the Namibian youth when it comes to education, religion and their total contribution to the development of the country?
SN: I urge the youth of Namibia to unite, support government policies and actions to ensure that there is peace and stability in the country, because without that we cannot develop the State.
One of the major challenges facing Namibia is gender-based violence. What are your thoughts on this senseless killings?
SN: It is a shame. Killing of women by men is craziness and it must be
rejected. Because we agreed that there should be equality among all sexes in Namibia we have equality of sexes and during your time there will be 50/50 gender representation when it comes to leadership. We must unite as men and women. Parents must teach the children how they should behave because it is their responsibility.
Land is another challenge because in some cases it is unavailable while in other cases it is available but unaffordable. How do we address this situation?
SN: It will take time to unite in order to get rid of poverty. But the land is already in our hands, what we need to address is the issue of sharing it.
Pan-Africanism. Is this ideology still being upheld by current African leaders?
SN: Yes it is. It is the base of our existence as Africa including Africans including those in the diaspora. We will never give it up because we must get rid of foreign influence and focus on educating our people. We must make sure individual member states in Africa ensures that all African children attend school so that they can gain unity of purpose and action.
Africa still depends heavily on foreign aid despite its vast resources. Why are we as a continent struggling to be totally independent?
SN: Like I said, we must ensure that education is accessible from preprimary up to university level, which is the only guarantee of keeping out foreign influence and the need for foreign aid.
Former Libyan President Colonel Muammar Gadhafi had the vision for a United States of Africa. Do you think his vision must still be pursued?
SN: Yes, we must make sure that everyone is educated and go that they go through the political education of Africa for Africans, we cannot give up that dream. That [Gadhafi’s death] is just a temporary setback. As Africans we have to work hard to ensure that Africa is controlled by Africans and that all resources are utilized for the benefit of all Africans.
There is reference made to ‘eternal Presidents’ in Africa. This refers to statesmen who served for many years. What is your take on the pressure placed upon African Presidents such as Dr. Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea) and others with calls for them to step down? What is your view on term limits for Presidents?
SN: We do not need to listen to foreigners, we must do what we think is right for Africa, for those on the continent and those in the diaspora.
What is your independence message to all Namibian citizens?
SN: We must ensure peace in the country and promote love amongst ourselves. I am at the disposal of the nation and I am happy that the youth are taking up more responsibilities. Happy independence!
Your Excellency, it was indeed wonderful interacting with you. From The Patriot team, we would like to thank you and wish you sustained health and please continue sharing your wisdom with the nation.
SN: I thank you.
Sam Nujoma quotes
“Like the broad history of any man’s life, mine could be told in a few sentences.”-22 May 2004
“We cannot afford to substitute hard and honest work with anything else because there is simply no substitute for hard work. Equally, we must not amass wealth that we have not worked for, or which is not due to us.” 31 December 1996
“As a way of combatting the spread of AIDS we must, therefore create an environment in which those infected can feel comfortable in making their HIV status public. We must remember that the people who are infected can be effective agents in bringing about behavioural change in our society.”1 September 1995
“My heart bleeds when I see pictures of African children with emaciated bodies, attempting to feed from equally emaciated breasts, of very hungry mothers. I am lost for words when I see pictures of men and women fleeing from their countries due to the ravages of war in which brother kills brother as if he were an enemy from another planet.”-15 July 1994
On human rights
“Independent Namibia, which our children will live in, will be determined by our ability or failure to create a new nation in which all men and women can live together in harmony in conditions of freedom, dignity and equal opportunity.”-8 October 1990
On Land and Reconciliation
“The land issue in Namibia is one of the burning issues facing our young nation today. Indeed, it was central to the struggle for liberation. A quick glance at the political economy of this country clearly reveals why land is of such importance. In the first place, about 70% of the population derives its livelihood from land, either as peasants, private owners of commercial land, or workers on such farms.”-27 February 1995
Source: The Quotable Sam Nujoma