As with all liberation movements, SWAPO has had the tradition of centring party and country powers in one individual. This has been the cases in China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is tremendous power vested in one individual, scary to think about it, but the weight of responsibility that comes with it should terrify any person vying for such a position.
Just over a week ago, Dr. Hage Geingob emerged as victor of the SWAPO party presidential election. As his predecessors Tate Nuujoma and Tata Pohamba, he’s now the ruling party’s president and the country’s president – congratulation! However, what does this amount of power require?
Ambrogio Lorenzetti was a 13th and 14th century Italian painter, today mostly remembered for his artwork, The Allegory of Good and Bad Government, demonstrated in three fresco panels depicting the possible consequence of the use of political power. Good rulers would use their power to result positive change, ensure internal harmony with peers, and take measures to improve the lives of their subjects. Bad rulers would be the exact opposite. I have at least two things to say which could launch the president into Lorenzetti’s good government depiction:
First, with such power comes the responsibility to ensure that you keep on your team those who are willing to critique you without fear, on issues of policy. Keeping away party members out your administration, simply because they don’t agree with you could be the beginning of disintegration and political paranoia.
The recent elections have clearly demonstrated how majority of those opposed to the president were strategically ousted – presenting a new problem of steak loyalty. For example, the president made his six choices, none of them of some who ideologically disagree with him. While this isn’t abuse of power, it could be the very thing that would lead to internal failure, as the president will not receive objective critique from within the party.
Secondly, with so much power, the president is required to influence change in major areas affecting the country’s ordinary citizens. Particularly, good economic changes. When Dr. Geingob campaigned for national presidency, he promised a number of socio-economic reforms. What stood out was the fight against poverty – calling for its eradication.
At present, other than the establishment of a ministry for poverty eradication and much of paper work on policy development, this promise is yet to be delivered.
It still amuses us the members of the public how someone with so much power, placed as the most senior guardian of this country, has literally been absent on issues that affect the country. Our president’s silence on key issues of corruption that has affected the country during his term of office is rather disheartening and does not inspire confidence among the ordinary people.
How do we eradicate poverty, when billions of dollars have gone amiss but no one has been brought to book? Money, which has been allocated to help poor people develop skills that will give them an edge to advance economically, has been embezzled with no consequences.
With great power comes great responsibility, but responsibility is only demonstrated in action. The absence of action to curb wastefulness and corruption from the country’s most powerful persons does raise ethical questions.
I have to say that the current president is hard to dislike as a person, he’s pleasant being, charismatic and definitely a people’s person. However, there is need to see that personality stretched to become an instrument of changing the things he said he was going to change. He has some of the most qualified, experienced and skilled Namibians as his advisors, ministers, and secretaries. An expensive and strategic administration, however, it is not delivering.
We are grateful as a nation that our presidents, although vested with so much power have not turned into tyrants.
However, we would like to see Dr. Geingob taking the lead of driving the national agenda, and not leave it at the level of policy and administration. Harambee Prosperity Plan, indicated promises of interest in human development and bettering of lives of the ordinary, but that hope is fast vanishing as it’s turning into another White Elephant project.
We have to move beyond power-play politics towards practical politics that aims at seeing good change. Let’s hope that 2018 will be a seeing of a new Geingob administration, with renewed zeal and delivery of the promise of a better life for the ordinary citizens.
Although, stopping the post-liberation movement deteriorating socio-economic conditions must begin with the entire society embracing a new thinking framework, we need political power to come on board, not with new policies but executable action plans.
Our leaders whom we have trusted with our votes ought to do much better, and outdo our former oppressors, not in policy formation but in policy execution. Power is deeply rooted in ethics, in this case, for better governance and improvement of the living standards of ordinary people.
Failure to do good when you have the power to affect change is in itself a moral issue, it signifies the betrayal of the trust of those who have voted you into power.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are in my private capacity, based on Article 21 of the Namibian constitution, granting freedom of speech and expression. They are not views of my employer IUM or its affiliates.