When you insult the very voters you may need someday, they probably are not going to vote for you; but as the saying goes ‘when you mud-wrestle with pigs, the pigs enjoy it.’ This has been a trend in the Namibian diaspora which features politicians throwing insults to the electorate.
Land Reform minister Uutoni Nujoma has joined the political elite described as a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege. Their biggest struggle oft-times that they somewhat can no longer relate to the life of the poor as evidenced when he publically, during a television interview with South African broadcaster eNCA said; “If you give a farm, a very expensive one, for example to a poor person, how will he run it?”
Nujoma came under fire last week for his views, especially his remarks regarding poor people’s supposed challenges to thrive on productive resettlement farms, remarks taken as an insult by the masses. While such remarks may be politically scandalous and career-ending in other countries, Namibians have become thick-skinned and used to what is slowly becoming normalised. These insults are normally followed by a public apology and life continues.
The severity of the matter is causing outrage amongst the public with many feeling used and only good for the purpose of voting.
“I for one feel very insulted. Why do they not insult us like this when they campaign for votes? Why are we all of a sudden peasants, stupid, lazy and useless when it comes to meeting our needs? It is really sad to be insulted by the very same person who once promised to make your life easier should you vote them in office,” activist Johanna Matheus shared her despondency in the leadership.
Uutoni joins other leaders on the political vice. In 2013, then deputy minister of Trade and Industry Tjekero Tweya said; “Namibians are [f#cking ]stupid because instead of adding value to local resources and thinking out of the box, they import the majority of finished products.” Tweya came under fire for his remarks but claimed to have been misunderstood. No actions were taken against him.
In what must the most insulting phrase used against Namibians, in 2014 during a Swapo Party rally, then party Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba said to the party member sympathizers; “omake aafyoona nye,’ which directly translates to ‘clap hands, you poor people.’ Similarly, Mbumba set the social networking sites abuzz all weekend after uttering the comment during Swapo’s closing rally at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek. Some offended Swapo supporters left their voters’ registration cards behind in the stadium.
The now Vice President apologized saying he was consumed with excitement, seized by the moment and wanted to crack a joke in the heat of the moment. He has since continued to have a prosperous political career finding himself second in charge.
In 2017, Katima Mulilo chief executive officer Raphael Liswaniso aslo took a swipe to the residents of Katima saying – ‘Urban land is not for the poor because it is for sale and those who cannot afford to buy should stay on communal land instead of resorting to grabbing land.” He still holds the high office of the Katima Mulilo to date.
President Hage Geingob also spoke his mind during the 28th Independence Day celebrations this year in Tsumeb saying; “The food bank will not make them lazy. They are already lazy and sitting there helplessly.” In general, politicians in a one party dominant state do not face the same pressure to resign or to issue apologies for mistakes made or words uttered out of turn as might happen in democracies that are more competitive, said IPPR Executive Director Graham Hopwood. “In Namibia, we have ‘teflon’ politicians who remain unscathed by political scandals, mistakes, and misjudgements. Hence we have seen very few high-level sackings or resignations over the years. Voters also appear prepared to forgive or forget such instances. For example the Vice-President’s comments on ‘peasants’ in 2014 had no discernible impact on Swapo’s vote share in 2014,” he highlighted. Political analyst Andrew Niikondo said utterances of this nature are common in an organizational setting and should not provoke the public in the absence of a comprehensive investigation.
“When you are the head of an organization and you appoint five people, they will not all have the same behavior and attitude. So you will have one or two who will not always say things you agree with,” said Niikondo.
“For me, it only becomes a concern should the appointing authority [the president] investigates the matter and takes a stand based on the seriousness of the issue. If you just start firing, you will not end up with a government in the end because you will lose the person and their followers,” he added. Leader of the Landless People’s Movement Bernadus Swartbooi condemned the trend as a mere lack of political accountability. Swartbooi, who once called his boss [Nujoma] ‘stupid’ while serving as deputy minister at the Land Reforms Ministry, was forced to resign after refusing to apologise.
“It’s a sad reality that in Africa we do not have a system of keeping people accountable. And once you do not keep people accountable for the small and the big actions, a culture grows. This is what has happened in Namibia,” he said.
He said it all boils down to the quality of leadership when it comes to utterances from leaders who have climbed up the political ladder. The PDM leader is of the opinion that the trend started with one and it continued to two, but the fact that none was ever held accountable; it has thus become difficult to hold the third accountable.
“The guys do not care at all because they can simply apologize the following day. It’s simply the power of knowing that the very same people who elected you, will keep on re-electing you. You start feeling like a “God” and you know there is no one who can hold you accountable.”
Why politicians drift away from the very same people who voted them into power is complex, according to Swarbooi.
“You get to a point where you cannot understand poverty anymore because you have gotten so much and in such an easy fashion in such a short time that you are frustrated to have to deal with those that don’t have. You feel you must stay away because you have more important things to deal with. You have all the privileges and you cannot deal with people without money because you philosophically, spiritually and personally cannot identify with those don’t have. And if you insult them, others will still go and campaign and you will benefit from that campaign even if you have insulted them,” he said.
At the crux of this fiasco is the continued quality in leadership but Swartbooi believe an insulted and frustrated people could resort to violence should they lose accountability in the leaders. Citizenship, now defined on class has a huge impact on every Namibian.
“Do it long enough, frustrate them long enough and since you are saying the system will never take care of them, they will resort to violence. They will resort to self-help to break through these barriers.”
The politician urged Namibians to drop the armchair critic antics and do something to hold leaders accountable. He said; ‘if you are angry but you are not sufficiently angry to vote people out of power, than your anger is meaningless.”
‘Namibians are fucking stupid because instead of adding value to local resources and thinking out of the box, they import the majority of finished products – Tjekero Tweya, then Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry.
‘The food bank will not make them lazy. They are already lazy, and sitting there helplessly,” President Hage Geingob.
‘Urban land is not for the poor because it is for sale and those who cannot afford to buy should stay on communal land instead of resorting to grabbing land,’ said Katima Mulilo chief executive officer Raphael Liswaniso.
“Omake aafjoona nye (clap hands you poor people)” – Nangolo Mbumba