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Sunday 18 August 2019
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Utoni’s dog-whistle politics

Utoni Nujoma made a dangerous blunder in a broadcasted interview recently that should serve as a warning for politicians.
There was a backlash: When you insult voters you may need someday, they probably aren’t going to vote for you; and when you mud-wrestle with pigs, the pigs enjoy it.
Nujoma’s comments that you cannot give farms to the poor to a certain extent highlights how out of touch politicians are with the masses.
In Swapo’s case, making such reckless statements can be shoved under the carpet because it is assured victory at the polls due to its massive  rural support base.
What makes it even worse, is the fact that he unsuccessfully tried to distance himself from his remarks. Claims that his words were taken out of context or that the broadcasters did not show the full interview are irrelevant in this regard.
This is best described as dog-whistle politics.
Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different, or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The phrase is often used as a pejorative due to a perception of deceptive intent in the speaker thought to be making use of such messaging. The analogy is to a dog whistle, whose ultrasonic whistling sound is heard by dogs but inaudible to humans.
Politicians need to learn the need to say what they mean and mean what they say.
Political rhetoric and utterances too many times has been the downfall of many politicians worldwide. In fact, if it were in the western world, when an elected leader makes such reckless utterances they resign voluntarily. That is integrity and a true admission of wrongdoing.
There are legitimate criticisms of Swapo’s land reform policies, personnel choices, temperament and integrity. These should be pointed  out.
Simply because the Swapo-led government has failed to take deliberate measures to empower its people.
We all know that land is the first step to sustainable wealth creation, the question therefore remains, why are we stalling for so long?
The response of the opposition to get Nujoma fired is a cheap shot, but the minister’s remarks reflect a condescension too prevalent among some of our politicians, who convey a disdain for less educated non-urban voters as ignorant and clueless of affairs in the country.
And then politicians wonder why the voters rejoice when misery descends upon them[politicians].
Many of Africa’s modern politicians have become too self-serving and they totally disregard the needs of the electorate.
In other countries, at least, politicians have to suck up to the voters during elections and disappear thereafter.
In Namibia, Swapo politicians know all too well that vitória é certa at the polls, hence there is no need to crawl to the doorstep of voters. All they need to do is to ensure that they make it onto the party’s parliamentary list.
What we don’t realize in Namibia is that our politicians are using an old political tactic called dog-whistle politics.
Insulting dog whistles are often sneakily used when politicians want to insult the masses. The coded messages are used to reinforce the insults.
There are three aspects involved when politicians use dog whistles.
First, politicians force thinly veiled insults into the discourse with voters. Second, they make sure to not directly reference any group directly, so they can’t be accused of direct insults. And third, they shame any critics who try to call them out for their insults. Is that not what Utoni did during the eNCA interview?
He first called people poor, then he generalised the matter by saying not everyone can be given a farm and lastly he harshly criticised eNCA for apparently not airing the entire interview and he even went as far as claiming he was quoted out of context.
We know these tricks all too well.
Lastly, politicians should know by now that voters are not agents of ignorance and nor are they oblivious to their immediate surroundings.




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