Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Elections 2019: Reinvigorating the spirit of Public Service

On Friday, 17 May 2019, Chief Electoral and Referenda Officer Theo Mujoro announced that Presidential and National Assembly elections shall be held on 27 November 2019. These elections shall take place against the background of negative economic growth, expanding income inequality, high poverty levels, youth unemployment, unsustainable government deficits and debt as well as massive rural-urban migration.
Such a context poses serious challenges to those who are seeking public office.
In recent times elections in Namibia have come to be viewed as as a means of employment creation.
Aspiring candidates form alliances or slates on the basis of “you scratch my back I scratch your back”.
This is what some have characterize as stomach politics. The public service has come to be viewed as a way of making a living. Politicians promote their kith and kin without due regard to competences, skills or the commitment to serve the public. This is the sad current state of affairs of politics. The public feels alienated from those they put into public offices.
There is a widespread disillusionment with politics in the country. Elections 2019 calls therefore for a return to the earlier ethos of politics.
At independence the focus of elected politicians was of meeting the expectations of the electorates.
The electorate was expecting change which will restore their human dignity, improve their wellbeing and enhance their economic opportunities.
During that period state formation was a key priority of the new government.
Government established priority areas over other priorities. Agriculture, Education, Health and Housing were identified as key priorities over other priorities. Institutions of governance were established to spearhead national development.
Resources were allocated to fund the national priorities. Over two decades massive changes took place: roads were constructed; schools, clinics and hospitals were built; a network of rural water supply infrastructure was constructed; highways linking Namibia to its neighbours were built and institutions of public administration were put into place. Change was happening every where in all the spheres of public life.
However, as economic opportunities opened up for those who were previously excluded greed also crept in. New concepts such as “tenderpreneurs” and black economic empowerment emerged.
Competition for resources among the black elites escalated accompanied by instances of corruption.
These tendencies infiltrated into body-politic of the country.
The political atmosphere turned into dog eat dog.
The ethos of public service took a backburner. This is where we find ourselves today.
It is a sad state of affairs.
Elections 2019 call for the reinvigoration of the spirit of public service. Political careerism shall not take this country anywhere. Our body politic should reinvigorate a sense of public service for a purpose. Voters are a yearning for novel quality of leadership: a leadership that is people centred. Such a leadership has a commitment to serving the public.
The spirit of public service requires that political leaders should see themselves as part of something bigger.
Their actions should be guided by a spirit of high and moral purpose which puts the needs of others first.
The purpose of holding an elected office is about opening ones’ heart, mind and energy to the service of the public.
As elected official one has to be motivated by something bigger than oneself.
The goal should be to make Namibia a better place for all its citizens.
In his ground-braking book titled, The Spirit of Public Administration, H. George Frederickson shows that public administration must move beyond mere management values such as efficiency and economy to a broader concept, that include the values of citizenship, fairness, responsiveness, and patriotism.
He tells us how we can manage public organisations and institutions in a way that enhances the prospects for change, responsiveness, and citizen involvement, thus ennoble the day-to-day practices of serving all citizens fairly and benevolently.
These are the ethos our political leaders should returned to if they hope to address the social and economic challenges currently facing our country.
The political actors should redefine their approaches to public service. They should mobilise the citizens on the basis of the spirit of public service which ensures that all citizens have access to the common public good.
When a nation is faced with formidable challenges such the current excruciating drought, political actors should build bridges of communication with the broader public.
Identity politics should be eschewed in favour of building broader consensus even among different political alignments.
This will create a platform for addressing national issues within the spirit of addressing national challenges in the spirit of unity of purpose.
The electorate expect better and innovative ways of addressing national challenges.
Political leaders should give a sense of direction to the people if they  expect meaningful participation in the forthcoming elections!

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