Tuesday 18 May 2021
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Many politicians, few leaders

President Hage Geingob’s utterances that recycling leaders in Cabinet is because of limited options has seemingly exposed Swapo Party’s inability to produce sufficient quality leaders.
Last week, Geingob came short of saying there is limited options in terms of quality of politicians on offer which he could choose from to be in his Cabinet. The general populace will agree to a larger extent that there has been a lack of quality leaders in the country’s political space, which threatens a broader civic malaise.
The danger of this can be viewed from two angles. If political leaders don’t have the ability to provide quality leadership they will never make hard decisions, those that serve the common good but may be unpopular to some voters or unpleasant  to sectional interests.

Where there is such failure of leadership, citizens may lose confidence in their democratic institutions and not participate in them at all.
Policy clarity and decisiveness has been one thing that has been lacking for a while now.
Government formulates good policies, but subsequently stops implementing them as soon as public outcry erupts. NEEEF is one example.
Geingob, in essence, admitted that he could do with a better team of ministers but there is a shallow pool to draw them from. Such utterances justifies why he had to recycle his ministers, but it puts the party in bad light if examined critically.
Since Independence, Swapo has generally maintained the leadership dispensation while failing to groom a new generation of leaders to carry the baton forward.
In hindsight, one can say that the process of grooming leaders is underway, but it seems to have started too late?
All eyes are on the Swapo Party School to see if change will indeed come.

It is hard to deny there is a real problem with our politics and how the political system produces leaders.
The quality of our debates has diminished noticeably in parliament. We currently have a situation where only a few MPs contribute in the august house. Those of you who follow parliament will be able to point them out.
We have every reason to be concerned with the slippery slope of political mediocrity and the onus rests on parties to ensure that the leaders they push through are competent.
Among the causes is the need for our politics to become professional. Today’s parliamentarians are increasingly drawn from the ranks of party who abide by the party statutes and thus remain fixated on serving the party leadership in order to secure their bread than serve the interests of the populace.

This transformation[politician to leader] is one of the forces behind any crisis of quality. There are few, if any at all, politicians who are willing to sacrifice themselves for a purpose greater than themselves.
The battle of ideologies is no longer the epicentre of politics, everything has boiled down to factions and personality contests.
So politicians need to realize that their words, actions, decisions and methodologies help to shape what the public thinks of them.
Politicians also need to know that the public is willing to be vulnerable in a good way to leaders they trust, and are more inclined to be satisfied with and committed to them. Perhaps this explains why the populace is not keen to leave everything in the hands of politicians.
The link between integrity and trust cannot be overestimated in the politician-voter relationship.

Therefore, leaders need to remain accountable not just to their superiors but also to the voter. Geingob declared his assets, followed by finance minister Calle Schlettwein-both of these were voluntary actions-but their positive impact goes a long way on how voters view these two.
Out of 27 ministers only Schlettwein was bold enough to heed the President’s call for transparency, both on a personal and professional level. Why the others are not following suit, only God knows.
For the National Assembly it is even worse, the latest asset declaration register on display at the parliament library is that of 2009. How do you expect the voters to trust such leaders?
Politicians therefore need to shed the ‘politician’ tag and assume the role of leaders as soon as they are voted into office. Namibia needs quality leaders, not quality politicians.

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