Want some insight in Namibian politics? I am no expert but have 16 years (1995-2011) of writing on Namibian politics in The Namibian newspaper and can probably offer you a bit more than you know about the who's who in the Namibian political zoo. You will also find a few articles commenting on other issues of concern in the country. Hope you find it interesting. - Christof

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Truth Behind The Chaotic Teachers’ Strike

LEADERS of trade unions affiliated to Swapo have always used workers as a stepping stone to getting a seat in Parliament.

The illegal strike by teachers was another opportunity which some wanted to use to raise their stakes but it all went horribly wrong.
After the National Union of Namibian Workers affiliated to Swapo, many union leaders walked over to full-time politics on the party’s ticket after making loud noise about one of other workers’ issue.
Among the first to do so was former secretary general Bernhardt Esau. In 1994 he announced that the NUNW was considering forming its own political party, causing major discomfort between the party and the unions. He was quickly summoned to Swapo headquarters and made to retract his statement.
Also in 1994, Esau, John Shaetonhodi and late Walter Kemba, were listed on former President Sam Nujoma’s choice of 32 of Swapo candidates for the 1994 parliamentary elections.
Fast-forward five years and the late Gabes Shihepo organised the biggest demonstration of communal farmers calling for land reform to be speeded up. Within a month he was appointed as Deputy Minister of Information, even though the demonstration was held under the Namibia National Farmers’ Union banner.
A year later, Shihepo was followed into Parliament by the late Ponhele ya France who, as NUNW President, had made threats of a Zimbabwe-style land grab during a May Day rally, accusing “Namibians of European origin” of being unwilling to co-operate in redressing the discrepancies brought about by colonialism.
Among the more recent unionists to follow a similar path were former NUNW president Alphäus Muheua and the Namibia Public Workers Union’s Eliphas Dingara.
So many union leaders seen as firebrands fighting for the rights of the masses have, in a way, deserted them for seats in Parliament.
So it was no surprise that cheap politicking, at the expense of union business, was the order of the day when it came to the illegal mass strike of teachers.
The union leaders knew the channels to follow within their unions but because of personal fights with others at their leadership level they opted to use the masses to fight their case.
But even in using the masses they could have followed a different route – to organise them towards a mass recall of union leaders who purportedly failed them instead of directing their anger at the Government, pupils and parents.
And when they had the teachers on their side, they failed to lead them in the right direction when they opted for an illegal strike.
This was done especially because some leaders had, by then, been suspended and it was inevitable that they would face consequences at workplace level.
So they decided to create chaos and make Nantu ungovernable. It was self-interest. They feared being pinpointed as culprits and facing the wrath of the law alone.
In opting to take teachers along the route they did, union leaders knew very well that it would be very difficult for the Public Service Commission, as the employer, to take action against a mass of teachers. It was go big, or go home, for the leaders.
They had one thing in mind. If it reached the stage that it did, they would use the well-known slogan of ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’, and make sure that if Government did not discipline the teachers, a condition would be added that they also be reinstated in their positions.
For those leaders, the levels the strike reached had nothing to do with the inequality and hardships experienced by a normal teacher in the village, and which fuelled their discord.
These are the people who have made the unions powerless in their negotiations with, for example, the Government.

Because of the self-interest of some union leaders, the workers continue to suffer with low wages, unreasonable dismissals, unabated retrenchments and a general disregard for basic human rights.

For those unionists it is all about their political future; there is nothing in it for the workers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Swapo Race Shenanigans: Taking Us 7 Years Back?


WHILE the motormouth campaign managers of Hage Geingob and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana fought it out in public, Jerry Ekandjo’s foot soldiers continued their work quietly among the Swapo faithful, resulting in a major shift within the race for the party’s vice presidency.

It is no secret that Ekandjo has the ambition to become Swapo’s number one and ultimately the country’s leader.
At the November 2007 congress, Ekandjo’s supporters were already ‘all systems go’ to challenge Geingob for the party’s vice-presidency but withdrew at the eleventh hour. This was done “in the interest of party unity”.
At that stage some within Swapo warned that it would have been ‘suicidal’ for Ekandjo to stand especially since unity in the party was fragile due to the shenanigans that led to Hidipo Hamutenya leaving Swapo and President Hifikepunye Pohamba being declared as the preferred candidate.
At that congress the keyword was ‘guided democracy’ and it was introduced by the Swapo Party Youth League, who also flatly opposed any additional nominations from the floor.
The same congress also saw the late John Pandeni withdraw against Iivula-Ithana in the race for the Secretary General position.
So there was a plan and it dates back years and not months as some of Ekandjo’s opponents would make themselves believe.
To her credit, Iivula-Ithana also played her cards well at that congress and Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, who dared to stand against her, has since become history.
But the race between Geingob, Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo has now reached the home stretch. There is no holding back any longer. Therefore Ekandjo’s bullish attitude. He knows very well that it is now or never. But so too for Geingob and Iivula-Ithana.
The fact that Utoni Nujoma has moved for the Secretary General position has finally confirmed as many speculated about a possible Nujoma dynasty. But about that, some other time.
For now the waterfall of leaks and the nitpicking and mudslinging that characterised the 2004 campaign within the party has re-emerged. This includes the re-emergence of a faceless character calling himself ‘Ananias Nghifitikeko’ who previously used e-mails for a smear campaign against some candidates. This time Nghifitikeko is even on Facebook and has started attacking certain individuals.
Unfortunately the uncomradely kerfuffling is not helping to improve democracy within the party. Previous experience has taught us that too much factionalism can take its toll.
Of course, as in any other competition of this magnitude, there are bound to be squabbles and divisions but it should not be allowed to reach the level of political buffoonery we experienced in 2004.
The Swapo vice presidency race should be about what each candidate can offer to the country first and also to the party. Remember even though some in Swapo feel that what happens within the party is the prerogative of the party, when Swapo sneezes the rest of the country gets a cold. We can’t argue this fact away.
We should be looking at what each of the candidates will bring to the table in terms of: Benefits for the country? Their strengths and weaknesses? Is the individual a person in his/her own right or ultra-Swapoist? If not how would that affect the country under the ‘rule’ of such a person?
Who of the three is a pragmatist who can link theory and practice? Who is in the centre? And how will their ideas promote democracy in the country and advance us in terms of bread-and-butter issues?
Those opposed to Geingob claim that under him democracy will basically mean the ability by a small group of people to purchase and to own while under Ekandjo we might see democratic centralism which will make the ruling party stronger than it was even under former leader Sam Nujoma.
The debate should be such that, once the congress comes, those who represent the grassroots will have a clear idea of where to put their cross.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Gangsterism, Selfishness, Killing RDP

AFTER attending public rallies of the Rally for Democracy and Progress in Windhoek and at Omuthiya following the party’s establishment a few years back, I told some of my newsroom colleagues that nothing about the RDP is different from Swapo.

And when some inquisitive minds picked my brain about the party’s chances in the first presidential and general elections they contested, I predicted that they would get between seven and nine seats in the National Assembly.
Recent events are proof that I was not far off the mark.
A lot of ink has already been spilled analysing the impact the recent divisions in the main opposition party will have on their future role in the country’s political arena.
Yet it is worth putting things into perspective because, as those who have long been around in Namibian politics will agree, the Rally for Democracy and Progress is actually repeating the same mistakes committed by the Congress of Democrats. And both parties were established primarily by people who had left Swapo.
It is important to note that politicians get in trouble when desire nixes their memory. Therefore the nitpicking and mudslinging, although not as public as happened at CoD, are clearly only a scramble for the party’s soul as those at the centre of it feed their own insatiable greed to take over leadership and not necessarily to lead the party to greater heights.
When it became clear that a new political party was on the horizon because of Swapo’s treatment of Hidipo Hamutenya and those who supported him during the 2004 election for Swapo candidacy, many decided to join that new party because of Hamutenya.
They felt that their hero had finally made the move and he would be the solution to many problems Namibia faced. But there were many others who joined because they hoped to get positions. Others also left Swapo not because they saw Hamutenya as the solution but because of their hatred for former Swapo leader Sam Nujoma.
Some of those who joined the party did so because they hoped to revive their political careers as their peers in Swapo started regarding them as spent forces.
There could be other categories, but a minority of genuinely concerned Namibians also joined RDP because they were looking for a viable alternative to Swapo. Their only goal was to break the two-thirds majority and to ensure that Namibia’s democracy remained vibrant.
But there was always the risk of a personality split because of how those who led the formation of RDP had operated when they were in Swapo. Many of them undermined the party leadership if they didn’t agree with how things were done.
In the last few years before they left Swapo the majority of them spent their energies to orchestrate conflicts and direct disorder in their quest to make it look like Swapo was a party full of divisions, backbiting and hatred among comrades.
I am not saying that it is all peace and happiness in Swapo. But I am emphasising the extent to which some people went about creating the impression that the new party they were about to establish was the solution to everything.
But now that they are in positions of responsibility, where they are required to   deploy the power given to them as leaders, some leaders are failing to deliver.
One of the reasons for this is because the trust of followers was based partially on the wrong reasons. There was a perception created that the RDP leadership would always remain united and able to fix the disunity problems which were being experienced in Swapo. Another perception was that they were better leaders than those in Swapo.
Thus the disarray and political gangsterism seen elsewhere in Namibian politics would have made way for unity in RDP.
However, selfish individual goals have overtaken the purpose for which the party might have been established and if Hamutenya had not acted with the recent suspension of three leaders he would have been seen as a lame leader.
But the RDP’s problems won’t be resolved by Hamutenya alone.
Others too should agree to let go of personal agendas. Already we have witnessed that since being elected to the National Assembly, the RDP has yet to play a  significant role. For instance, they have yet to propose a bill.
If personal issues continue to dominate the inner operations of the party, the RDP will become a disaster as a vehicle for people’s political hopes and as a parliamentary player. In fact it will not have any hope at all. They need not look further than those around them in the National Assembly.
There’s no fudging with unity in political parties as many in CoD will tell you. You win or you don’t.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Succession: Shouldn’t We Also Think Outside The Box

CANDIDATES have strategies to win the race in Swapo but do they have the strategies to run the country? And do they have the qualities of a leader the country needs?

These are but two of the most crucial questions that Swapo and any delegate to the congress later this year must ask before deciding on the presidential candidate.
Instead too much time and effort is wasted on personalities and character assassination and who will benefit through tenders or prepare the State for collective piracy if their candidate wins.
Even though Swapo was known as the traditional hope of the oppressed and there is a feeling among some of its members that others have no right to poke inquisitive noses into its affairs, ignoring what is going on in the party is as good as cutting the thread that holds the country together. Swapo is the ruling party since Independence and therefore everything it does matters to outsiders also.
With the debate on succession thus limited to the Politburo, Central Committee and the congress, it should be the sole business of everyone else who thinks they are obliged to have a say to use available platforms to try and influence party members on the type of candidate to be elected. It is only right to do so even though it is not written in stone that the Swapo candidate will become the next President of Namibia.
It is a fact that the majority of Namibia has relegated the responsibility of choosing that candidate to around 500 delegates at the congress.
As for now the names of the party’s Vice President Hage Geingob, Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Information Secretary Jerry Ekandjo, Prime Minister Nahas Angula and Deputy Prime Minister Marco Hausiku are all being touted as candidates to take over the party leadership from President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
All of the above have had their share of time in Cabinet and should by now have shown their capabilities.
Since Independence Swapo has hammered home the message of peace and tranquility. In fact even though former President Sam Nujoma emphasised economic independence towards the latter years of his rule, and Pohamba (being the continuation of programmes) reiterated these words, Namibia now needs a manager as President.
The next President should be able to steer the ship with very clear aims and be able to mobilise Cabinet, top ministerial management as well as the private sector with clear economic goals.
It should be someone who will manage Cabinet in such a way that ministers must present regular reports on progress of programmes undertaken but when they fail to deliver, sideways reshuffling should not be the option.
They should know that even though there are traits of servanthood in their leader, such a person will not tolerate laziness, lack of honesty, and will not hesitate to fire those who fail to carry out plans.
It means someone who is willing to take unpopular decisions in the interest of the nation and not a politically well-connected elite group.
When the second term of President Pohamba started, we were told that he had given each minister a set of goals/targets to achieve. The mistake he made was that those targets remained confidential between him and the ministers.
If he had gone the transparent route of revealing each minister’s target, he would have been more empowered when taking steps against a non-performing Cabinet member.
As it is now, he can keep track of the delegated work, but who says that he is in fact doing that? How do we know that his non-performing ministers face his wrath? And what type of wrath is it that we don’t actually see?
Also, our next President should be someone who will not generalise targets but zoom in on them with short-term deadlines. Even though we have Vision 2030 as an overall goal, there are many short term solutions which can make it a success.
Only a seasoned navigator can steer the ship in that direction.
We have many candidates, some of them even outside the group I referred to earlier.
Therefore, if need be, the delegates must start to think outside the box.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Swapo Succession: Marching Left But Walking Right

IN Swapo not everything the party leaders say from the public podium is ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. In many instances the word ‘party’ is used to achieve personal goals and also coerce members into a certain thinking or direction. Take, for instance, the decision taken by the party’s Politburo and rubber-stamped by the Central Committee that there should be a lid on the succession debate until ‘the party’ decides otherwise. It makes one wonder who ‘the party’ then is. Is the party the Politburo or is the party general membership at section, branch and regional level? It was decided that campaigning should not be allowed until ‘the party’ decides otherwise nearer to the congress. What that decision basically means is that ‘the party’ is the Politburo. It is the Politburo who decides when campaigning will start. But most importantly, it is also the Politburo which decides who should stand for election and in what position because the names will be first thrown in the hat at that level before being submitted to the Central Committee and later to the congress. It means that, first, someone who is not at Politburo level has almost a zero chance of being named as a candidate for a top four position. Not that I am arguing for a complete outsider as leader of the party but to point out the exclusiveness of the presidential race. Secondly, there has been no instance where the Politburo had invited nominations for the top four positions prior to deciding on the candidates. What it has done is to nominate and endorse them at Central Committee and congress level before elections take place. Therefore, the Politburo is in fact the ‘party’ which the leaders refer to when they talk about the succession debate, when people should start campaigning or who the candidates will be to stand for elections. I know that some will argue that the congress delegates still get a chance to nominate a candidate from the floor, but what chance does such a person have of being elected? When does such a person campaign? So the question really is whether it is truly a Swapo tradition, as many leaders claim, not to campaign before congress. To whose benefit is such a move? What impact, if any, do the continuous claims of availability of someone like Prime Minister Nahas Angula also have on the succession campaign? What about former minister Helmut Angula’s claim that the next president of Swapo must also come from the Tanganyika group? Am I wrong in concluding that the seniors in the party want the succession debate to continue on their terms and that they want to decide where and when it should be held? Is what is happening not to their advantage? Recently, my colleague Asser Ntinda wrote that “those who are pushing for a public debate on this crucial issue (of succession) outside (Swapo) Party’s structures are not necessarily members” and that it will be “a fatal mistake” if the party “plays into the hands of such elements” by discussing it publicly. According to him outsiders want to hijack the debate and should thus not be allowed to do it. Ntinda and many others in the party know that what happens in Swapo is of interest to Namibia because it is the ruling party. There is no way Namibians can pretend how Swapo runs its affairs has no effect on the country. In many things already our Government has become a reflection of who Swapo is. Therefore outsiders have the right to poke inquisitive noses into the party’s affairs even though Swapo evangelists like Ntinda might argue that what the party does is its business alone. If outsiders, especially those with genuine concern for the country, cannot help guide the democracy that we have the party’s flames of internal fires ultimately descend into energy-sapping but useless fights within the Government also. Therefore, there’s no fudging in politics. You win or you don’t even if you are a so-called outsider or onlooker and with Swapo’s succession debate publicly marching left but physically walking right, there is also a need for a debate both in and outside party structures.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is Ours A Government Of The Few For The Few?

FOR a former classmate of mine, it feels like the world has turned against her. Unemployed, a single parent, she faces taxi price hikes, electricity increases soon and the City of Windhoek has demolished her new 'kaya'. After being promised a job and better living conditions, she had hoped her vote would change life for the better but it is ‘a luta continua’ for her and many of her neighbours in Windhoek’s Okahandja Park. And she is a person who has been trying all her life to live within her meagre means. Like many others in her area she has complained vigorously to the City of Windhoek authorities about the hygiene and other conditions in her area but all they have done is make promises. Before the last elections politicians promised the settlement reduced water and electricity tariffs, better housing, shopping centres, a health institution and free school. Now that they have waited so long, she was part of the group who decided to set up new shacks as winter approaches. Hers was close to her mother’s but the authorities moved in fast to break it down. I wonder why they habitually choose to do the breaking down in winter and only in places where hunger and the struggle for better living conditions are so critical! Can one blame her for thinking that the shack demolition brought back the memories of the illegal removal she went through with her parents during the 1959 Old Location debacle? And if that was an inhumane exercise, what about the shack demolitions they have gone through in an independent Namibia? A better life, as hoped for by those martyred in the liberation war and those who died in the Katutura removals, is surely out of grasp for people like her mother who have lived to tell the tales of that epic battle with municipal authorities. In fact, such tales will continue to be told to the ‘born-frees’ but only the venue of the battle has now changed. For instance, earlier on, some of her neighbours were among those who made the long daily trek across the city to the rubbish dumps to collect food and other items to make ends meet despite sometimes being sjamboked by the security guards at the dump. She is but one of the many Namibians who authorities keep telling that they have set up a task group to investigate their living conditions or reasons for the continued struggle at dumps. Many such investigations end up in empty promises or temporary solutions like giving them piecemeal jobs here and there for which they earn a pittance. One such case was when some of them were taken up to do work at a certain place and their ‘pay’ was food (under the food-for-work programme). After some time the same project was tendered out to someone else who was receiving money and employed other people. Why, if one may ask, was it not possible to also pay the first group in cash? What makes them different or inferior? It is worthwhile to mention that authorities have become used to threats by the people. When there is an uproar over services, some even join in the complaints although they have been voted into office or given key jobs to work for the people. One gets the feeling that whatever the people will do or say to complain about services, politicians and authorities know that they (people) do not have any hope in hell of changing things. It is sad that the land of milk and honey which many expected at independence (rightly or wrongly so) is extravagantly real for some and excruciatingly absent for the majority of the people. A small group of people continue to live well at the cost of others and one cannot fault those who have a sense of resignation that the possibility of a better Namibia is nothing more than pie in the sky. Our leaders need to guard against the general feeling building among many at grassroots level that the only demonstrable point of political contact defining common citizenship between the highly and the lowly placed is only the vote. People feel they only become important when their vote is needed. I am leaving you with a question: Is ours truly a Government of the people for the people? Or is it a Government of the few for the few?

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Dreams of Rundu’s Unsung Hero

NEARLY nine years ago, I met one of the unsung heroes of Namibia – a courageous woman who stood up to discrimination against HIV-positive people and lived a dream of seeing a cure against the disease.

The Wednesday before I met Roswitha Ndumba of Rundu in person on a Saturday, I spoke to her over the telephone. She was down with a bout of flu and told me that she was just hoping to live to see that Saturday.
She wanted to tell her story to the world and she had many (roughly 130) others, led by her, who wanted to do the same.
Roswitha did not only live to see that Saturday, but saw around 3 200 days and nights (nine years) before she lost the battle against the virus this year.
During those nine years, she learned to survive and later started building bridges of hope.
When Roswitha first told her story publicly, another icon in the fight against HIV, Emma Tuahepa-Kamapoha, had her arms around her in Rundu’s St Mary’s Parish Church. Many others were by her side, like the Minister of Health Richard Kamwi and prominent campaigner and people’s favourite, Lucy Steinitz.
They came out under the banner of Lironga Eparu – an organisation established by people living positively with HIV-AIDS. Lironga Eparu means ‘learn to survive’.
Indeed Roswitha learned to survive.
When I visited her home the first time, the former principal of a primary school had lost all her belongings and was living with a sister.
In fact, the then 40-year-old campaigner only had a bed in her room and used empty boxes in which to keep her remaining clothes.
She lost her soldier husband two years earlier due to an AIDS-related illness. She had walked out of their home when he brought a second wife under the same roof.
Soon thereafter she became sick and lived with her mother in the village but her brother collected her, had her tested and the four siblings were given N$1 000 each month to buy her drugs.
Roswitha soldiered on and many who saw her lying almost half dead in the Rundu Hospital could not believe their eyes when she became stronger to the point where she started an organisation called Kavango Bridges of Hope.
Roswitha became a beacon of hope in the region and was not only the voice of the HIV-positive people but also raised funds for material support and empowered the people through training and counselling.
She also started a rights group called ‘Women’s Rights for Change’.
Roswitha built many bridges that were not visible to the eye but created a sense of hope and life for those who test positive for HIV.
Her dream was to see the Kavango Bridges of Hope going strong and becoming a national organisation for people living with HIV.
At some stage Roswitha said she was “not thinking about death anymore. I never gave up even when I was seriously ill”.
I visited Rundu this week and saw how Roswitha’s dreams are dying a slow death.
The building is now used as a printing shop as no one seemed to have taken the baton from her to take the organisation forward.
If it continues the way it is going now, all her efforts would have been in vain.
More importantly, those who have been left behind will feel increasingly hopeless as HIV will become the victor by killing not only her dreams but also the dreams of many other HIV-positive people.
It is important that those who lead serious campaigns with dreams such as those of Roswitha ensure that there will be continuity long after their departure.
Not only that, but to instil passion and drive among those who follow, so that the dreams will last.
Roswitha lived for nine more years and showed that there is life after HIV.
Although she is no longer here, with the anti-retroviral drugs available, anyone can live their dreams like Roswitha did and Emma is doing right now.

The rise of uxoricides

FIVE years ago, Judge Kato van Niekerk imposed a 20-year sentence on Rehoboth resident Prollius van Zyl for killing his wife after a heavy drinking spree. For outsiders the marriage appeared happy but was marked by several incidents of violence even though Van Zyl told the court repeatedly that he loved his wife and had been intent on saving his marriage.

During the hearing it was clear that Van Zyl was a devoted and loving father, and a husband who liked helping his wife with household duties such as cooking – but when he drank, a hidden capacity for violence tended to come to the fore. Ultimately it resulted in a bloody end to the marriage.
Over the past couple of months, we have witnessed a disturbing trend of a sudden increase in similar uxoricides – men killing their wives.
There is also what others refer to as familicide – a multiple-victim homicide in which the killer’s spouse and one or more children are slain.
Such violent acts are almost exclusively perpetrated by men.
In most cases people believe they are an unintended result of violence that went too far, but spouse murder cannot be and should not be understood as loss of control or a moment of insanity.
I believe most of the cases are deliberate and have been thought about over time.
Many such culprits have reached a stage of readiness to destroy another even if it means destroying themselves.
But before I go that route, there are also those men who believe that their victims could not persist or cope in his absence and regard their deaths as ‘necessary’ or perhaps even ‘merciful’.
In both cases, though, it seems that the killers have some sort of feeling of entitlement to decide on the victim’s fate.
The many cases I’ve referred to are almost entirely linked to violent interpersonal conflicts between a couple – whether married or not – and shootings constitute a substantial proportion.
These men display a hostile masculine proprietary mindset – in other words they think they own their spouses.
In some instances they profess a grievance against the wife and this is usually about alleged infidelities or her intentions to terminate their relationship.
In a recent instance a man travelled all the way to the North from Walvis Bay to kill the woman who had fled from him.
According to neighbours and friends, it was the second time she had run away from him.
This made me think that some of the murders could be a substitute for either divorce or separation.
When one speaks to some of the relatives and friends afterwards, they recount how the boyfriend or husband had threatened: “I’ll kill you and the kids if you ever leave me”. In other words, they can’t picture her with anyone else.
They are using murder as a way to end a rocky and unhappy relationship or one in which the partner opted out. This leave others shocked and in a state of disbelief.
But most the culprits are prone to fits of rage prior to the incidents and have a history of violence, while there are also traces of being obsessed with controlling the partner.
These are men who will have a knife at her throat one minute, and the next minute will be kissing the ground on which she walks while pleading for forgiveness.
Clearly, based on the sudden increase in the number of uxoricides over the past couple of years, there is a need to ask why: What is wrong in our society? What can we do to curb it?
If we turn a blind eye to what is happening around us, we are likely to see more of the killings.
There is a need for parents to sensitise their children (especially boys), society to help educate young men and Government and other institutions such as the Churches to step up their campaigns against violence.
We should not only embark on demonstrations but, among others, educate men that life does not end when relationships are broken, or help them to accept that they do not own their spouses or their destinies.
I believe even politicians, some of whom many worship, can get more involved by utilising their platforms to talk about these issues, instead of ranting at colonialists, imperialists and other -list(er)s!

Wholesale Changes – In Public Interest?

I HAVE a feeling that I am not the only one surprised by the wholesale changes that we have witnessed on the Swapo Party candidacy lists for the upcoming local authority elections.

Having called for fresh or new blood earlier, I still insist that change is a good thing since it injects new ideas.

However, change not managed properly can be dangerous.

There is a saying that “if you don’t master change, change will master you”.

In this case, Swapo members at grassroots level decided to master change. In so doing, there is a risk of throwing out all experience and reinventing things rather than combining the two.

Clearly Swapo members at local level could not wait for the primaries to make their voices heard, electing candidates they feel will best serve them at that level.

That’s democracy for you. People elect their candidates, whether they are right or wrong. The people have spoken!

For this intervention, I am concentrating only on the local authority elections.

While the Swapo voters wanted change, experience as well as institutional memory was shown the door.

Take, for instance, places like Swakopmund (or ‘Swapomund’ as they call it in Swapo) and Usakos where only one of the current councillors from Swapo are likely to return if elected on November 26 and 27.

At Oshakati, five of the six Swapo candidates will be new as people like the Mayor Katrina Shimbulu and Deputy Mayor Skinny Hilundwa did not make the cut while at Ondangwa, only two of the current councillors stand a chance to return after the local authority election.

That’s a drastic change when you need experience to improve the status of local authorities.

Of course, the question remains whether those who were not nominated for candidacy had in fact contributed positively during their term of office. Some believe they were left out because of party inner squabbles and divisions which are bound to happen prior and during primaries.

Politics, especially in Swapo, is of such kind that during party elections your enemy’s enemy becomes your friend. As a result even people who would normally not be the right candidates for certain positions will sneak in by conspiring with a leading group to oust another obvious candidate of choice.

What one sees with the latest primaries is that even councillors who only entered the fray five years ago have been chopped, just as their feet were about to find ground.

I see the new ones trying to reinvent the wheel.

Of course, some councillors are regarded as having overstayed their welcome.

Windhoek Mayor Matheus Shikongo and long-time chairperson of the management committee Bjorn von Finckenstein are both out.

Some believe it will leave a big vacuum but I believe they had time to groom others to take over from them.

The question is whether they’re out because it was time for change or because they became casualties in a scrum of external players? We know that there were previous attempts to oust them and that they were accused of not attending party public gatherings.

That shouldn’t be the criteria.

Ideally we should have councillors in the mould of those you come across when visiting countries like China. Listening to the mayor you not only get the impression that the person knows what’s going on in the city but you can easily assume them to be senior leaders in that country because of the way they say and do things. They know their stuff.

It is thus important that those who come in will understand their roles.

At some smaller councils, there has been too much interference in management by councillors who are supposed to govern and not run the institutions.

Above everything else, my hope is that the candidates have no attitude of careerism and thus do not only see the councils as a stepping stone to a political career.

Rather they need to see themselves as people ready to serve others for the betterment of living conditions and more efficient service delivery.

2011: Namibia’s Year Of Coming Of Age

WE are already seven days into a very significant year for Namibia’s Independence - the year in which we will celebrate 21years of Independence and hopefully get rid of the epic political buffoonery and other negatives that preoccupied our minds recently.

Celebrating 21 years is synonymous with maturity and becoming an adult.
In some cultures and societies a child who reaches that age receives keys from their parents. Such keys signify the opening of new doors and also the transfer of responsibility from the parents to such children.
In most cases the gifts given to the maturing children are of much higher value than the normal birthday gifts.
The well-off parents might even give a child a key to a flat or for a car.
The most significant key, however, is the one given to a child to unlock his or her own new opportunities in life.
With Namibia set to celebrate its 21st Independence anniversary this year, our democracy should be maturing to the next level. We should see a democracy in which political campaigning will be peaceful and elections transparent, among others.
Compared to some other states Namibia has done well since Independence but our yardstick should always be the countries above us. Those are countries known for the integrity, accountability and transparency of leaders they produce year-in and year-out.
Such leaders practice zero tolerance for poor performance, corruption, factionalism, patronage and promote unity in action.
While we are known to be a model of democracy among African states, corruption and cronyism have reached levels that have started systematically eroding the few gains we made.
Albert Einstein once said: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”.
Our problem is the way we see problems.
In the majority of cases we politicise things such as the high rate of unemployment, crime, lack of housing and what should normally be a mature debate for solutions to such issues end up being trashed.
This year we need to realise that there can be no fudging about the bread-and-butter issues. You win or you don’t; you have work or you don’t; there is an abnormally high level of murders or there isn’t.
For such problem-solving we need a new and deeper level of thinking across the board – whether Government or private sector, in Parliament or at traditional level, in the capital city or at a village.
Workshops and trips for the sake of subsistence and travel (S&T) allowances must stop. Instead, we need to work the problems with the affected people and shop for the right answers at their level.
Quick fixes have proven costly in the past.
That is why a few toilets in a rural area like Omusati were built for N$20 million!
And let’s get rid of disposable comrades. These are the corrupt and those whose sell-by dates have passed.
Let our year of coming of age be marked by maturity.
For that to happen a lot depends on an enlightened leadership who are ready to take the bull by the horns. Leaders must be ready to get their hands dirty rather than seek sanctuary in their air-conditioned offices.
There is no better time than 21 years to come of age, and it only comes around once!

Some Leaders Already At Work

MOST businesses and Government offices are slowly coming to life and Cabinet should be up and running by the last week of January.

What’s interesting is that many of the ministries and crucial institutions operated on ‘auto-pilot’ throughout December – a time when offices are quiet and which can be best utilised to plan and strategise for the new year.
Of course many will argue that they also need to rest, plough their mahangu fields or be with their families over that period.
I am impressed by how the two gentlemen at the Ministry of Education spent their December.
Both Minister Abraham Iyambo and his deputy David Namwandi crisscrossed the country, meeting personnel and planning for the 2011 school year.
Their aim was not only to avert chaos on the first day at school, but also to motivate staff and look at ways to ultimately improve the school results.
Last year’s grade 10 results have already given a glimpse of hope for the future. It was the best since we started with the Cambridge system and it all boiled down to motivation of the staff.
One of the trademarks of a good leader is the authority to mobilise commitment from others supporting you. The two seemed to have ignited some fire of hope among teachers and supporting staff of the ministry – albeit not all.
Media, especially NBC reports, over the holiday period also seemed to indicate that new Karas governor Clinton Swartbooi hit the ground running.
He had meetings with traditional leaders, regional political leaders, community leaders and the ordinary people from the street where he clearly spelled out his vision for the region for the next five years.
Those who studied leadership will tell you that the difference between it and management is that leaders provide vision and influence for others to realise that vision.
While Swartbooi got off to a flying start, he needs to know how to tend and deploy some of the power that came with his position.
He has done well to give directed attention to some of the crucial issues which bedevil Karas, such as unemployment, alcoholism and late-night street roaming.
The strategy seemed to be that of mentioning his concerns about the issues first, gauging the reaction of the community and following up with clearcut instructions such as that of enforcing the law with regards to shebeens.
But he needs to engage the voices of fellow regional politicians and community leadership to avoid burning out and being isolated in his pursuit for better living conditions for the people of Karas.
Already some political and economic forces are at play to undermine his authority because by, for instance, closing shebeens at certain times he has cut the income of the owners. It is a known fact that some of the shebeen owners have political influence and could encourage their followers from cooperating with him.
While the above three gentlemen were hard at work, many of the new governors as well as ministers were missing in action.
The only news item I observed of one of the new governors, veteran politician Joshua //Hoëbeb, was a public welcome party Swapo held for him at Outjo and it sent a chill up my spine.
Here he is appointed by the President in an opposition-dominated region and the first thing he does is to appear at a welcoming party held by Swapo. It immediately causes unnecessary division and tension.
I have no problem with him attending his party’s functions but his actions might be seen as replicating what his predecessor was accused of – allegedly working only in the interest of one group. It is, however, too early to judge //Hoëbeb.
As for the rest of the governors and ministers, they better come back with very clear strategies. The people have observed the actions of Iyambo and Swartbooi. Surely they will want their leaders to be in the same league.

War Vets, Children Issue Needs A Durable Solution

SWAPO needs to sort out the recurring problem with the veterans of the liberation struggle as well as the children of the liberation struggle.

If not, we will soon have grandchildren of the liberation struggle as well as great-grandchildren of the liberation struggle.
It is a fact that tends to be overlooked, but if you don’t deal with a problem in its infancy, it is likely to haunt you forever. I have a feeling that the liberation claims will be such if not dealt with once and for all.
The liberation struggle claims from war veterans started around 18 years ago with marches to State House and calls for jobs and huge payouts.
That was after the previous South African government provided a certain amount of money to Namibian South West Africa Territory Force soldiers after Independence, which was then divided into smaller portions to allow People’s Liberation Army of Namibia soldiers to benefit too. I understand that a small number of soldiers from either side received anything from that.
A number of cattle captured in war zones were given to some Plan fighters and many were also incorporated into the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) as well as Namibian Police.
However, even though the war veterans had recompense there we continue to deal with those who feel they are owed more than what they’ve received, and obviously on a more permanent, rather than one-off basis.
I do not intend to be dismissive of their demands, but on the other hand, with other already empowered black Namibians who continue to claim they are still ‘previously disadvantaged’, why then can’t the combatants do the same!
It is a fact that the amounts the war veterans have received, in comparison to the political elite, are obviously paltry.
Still though, there have been a number of initiatives by Government to deal with the problem by either giving them sums of money (like N$200 000 per person per project) to start own businesses, lump sum payments for up to 2 000 veterans, ranging between N$20 000 and N$30 000 each, and lately N$200 000 for 37 ‘special veterans’.
Those who returned at Independence also received blankets, household supplies including kitchen equipment, cutlery and food parcels for an entire year.
The Government had to set aside N$20 million to fund 100 projects by veterans and many of the 21 000 former liberation soldiers registered since 2008 are on the payroll of the Veterans’ Fund – an independent fund established to finance the different activities for veterans. It means they receive their monthly N$2 000 payments.
All of this is in addition to houses built and given to some war veterans as well as farms on which they were resettled to make a living.
I have highlighted the above to show that the Government has done a lot for war veterans in Namibia.
But there remains a worrying culture of entitlement among the children of those who went into exile as well as youth who were either born there of went with their parents.
This despite the fact that nobody was forced into joining the liberation struggle, and that it had been on a voluntary basis.
Cash payments also do not necessarily do justice to the sacrifices made, but war veterans need to exercise restraint and guard their tongues if they are to set an example to their children to do likewise.
Government needs to come up with durable solutions and must be a limit to Government’s obligations and generosity towards veterans, otherwise they will become a never-ending and recurring drain on public resources that can be used to greater national benefit.
There is a need to consult outside Government with others such as the insurance industry, investment consultants and economists on how solutions and demands from former soldiers can be interwoven with national development priorities.
As for the children and grandchildren, it is time that they are treated like any other child born after March 21 1990.
They can’t simply wait for payouts. Especially after some were given jobs from which they ran away!

Executive Mayors: Shouldn’t Be A Jobs-For-Comrades Scheme

IT seems like it is a given that executive mayors will soon be appointed to run cities and towns alongside chief executive officers on a full-time basis.

I have my reservations about the pace of introduction, how the appointments will be made, affordability of the position as well as how the reporting channels would work.
Local Government Minister Jerry Ekandjo this week again announced his intentions to push through the appointment of executive mayors in full-time positions.
Local authorities are also pushing for the appointment of full-time councillors but that’s non-negotiable in my view. To do precisely what when there are already so many council employees? I’m not prepared to entertain the possibility.
Some countries have executive mayors but they come with very strict working conditions and goals.
I believe that Namibian councillors, especially in the management which is supposed to have a bird’s eye view of council operations, operate in a ‘meeting councillors’ environment. Their only major task currently is to attend meetings and many do not have an in-depth knowledge of the workings of councils.
Getting a full-time executive mayor will thus be slightly more affordable rather than put councillors on such terms.
Such a mayor should run with the implementation of decisions in tandem with a chief executive officer (CEO). If the two operate well together, it could improve the speed of implementation of decisions by the administration.
Currently, we have management committees but they are part-time and their monitoring of the implementation of decisions is limited to the times they meet.
Because of the dynamics of local authorities, I prefer that executive mayors be elected instead of being appointed by a Minister or the President. They must be accountable to the voters.
Having said that, it might be difficult for reporting systems because voters will have a tough time to measure the success of such a person since they do not always have access to information which will help them to do so.
However, if they are appointed directly by either the Minister or the President, clear goals can be set and regular assessments conducted to measure the implementation of such targets.
Currently, the President appoints regional governors.
My problem with the appointment of the governors is the lack of clarity on their accountability.
We have no idea about the goals set for them, how they are measured and what will happen if they are not achieved. Basically the same which applies to the Ministers, whom, we are told, supposedly report to the President (appointing authority) at quarterly intervals.
For transparency’s sake, President Hifikepunye Pohamba needs to reveal the targets he set for each Minister and governor upon his or her appointment. Are they just appointments or performance contracts, for instance? If someone does not perform, what happens to them? Can they be fired or will they continue to collect fat cheques until the five year cycle is completed?
If we don’t know their targets, they remain solely accountable to State House and not to the electorate.
When such circumstances prevail, governance becomes pathetic.
It is partly the reason why some regional councils as well as ministries operate on an ‘auto-pilot’ system. You hardly hear what some governors, for instance, do.
With executive mayors, we need to bring in efficiency.
For starters, get people with good educational backgrounds who will drive the economy of a town and have a good world-view.
You can’t give someone with a narrow view millions and expect them to deliver! You might lead them into corruption. In other words, we need to scale up big time to get better outcomes.
I must hasten to caution that the negative to an executive mayor would be that they can become too powerful through either close links with the CEO or staff members. In the process they can destroy a council.
Others could be engaged in constant in-fighting with staff or CEOs and this could be to the detriment of the entire council.
But what is certain is that we don’t need a jobs-for-comrades scheme or to just get cadres of the ruling party in a opposition-dominated council. That also shouldn’t be the objective of executive mayors.
Those in authority need to think thoroughly before pushing through the changes to the appointment of executive mayors.

Stop Politicising Corruption

I AM seriously depressed. The alarming rate of corruption in Namibia is getting to me. Almost on a daily basis the media report about one or other corruption case. The only difference is that it started with hundreds being stolen, but now it is no longer hundreds or even thousands. Millions disappear overnight and some people become rich just as quickly. When you see your neighbour suddenly (whether a casual worker or clergyman) giving a huge facelift to his house, buying a top of the range vehicle or taking the family on a foreign trip, you immediately suspect that they must have laid their hands on millions. And it is not a jackpot they have won! It has become a tough task looking for people who systematically work their way up to riches in Namibia. Many opt for the quick fix including stealing, bribery and other forms of corruption. Worse still, many of us admire those who become rich overnight without even questioning how they achieved it. For many young people, they become their role models. Of late it has become a norm for people in key positions at Government ministries, parastatals or even in the private sector to scheme about how they can enrich themselves instead of ensuring efficient service delivery. Networks are formed and millions move between accounts while some turn a blind eye. In fact, I can safely say that some of these syndicates own our leaders! As soon as the leaders smell the rat, they are made to benefit (in most cases indirectly) even if it is just the crumbs falling from the tables. In the most recent instances tenders are not only given fraudulently but the work is either not started or is incomplete despite payments having been made. Worst is that procedures are not followed to first inspect the work or that payments are signed off by those connected to the tenderers. Surely they must be getting something in return. We have had reports of money being transferred between accounts and as it is moved, the amount gets less because people take their share of the cake. Such corruption delays service delivery and promotes poverty in a country which is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Corruption; where our leaders have declared zero tolerance on corruption; and where we have established an organisation governed by the laws to fight corruption. One gets the impression that ours is just a token commitment. In the early 1990s over-expenditure was first regarded as going over budget, but now it should constitute corruption because, for instance, accounting officers and others in key decision-making positions deliberately go for more expensive tenders so that they can benefit in the process. The corrupt tenderers will not pay from their own money. Will they? They will always recover it through inflated prices. Therefore, even if we have the Anti-Corruption Commission or the President shouting loudly about zero tolerance, it does not automatically translate into good action or minimise the problem. In fact, some of those who shout the loudest are among the main culprits. It’s time to let them know that they have gone too far.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

To Progress In Swapo Keep Out Of Others’ Fights

TWO years ago former Hardap Swapo Party Youth League regional secretary Titus /Huisemab was seen by some in the youth wing as a rising star, but the sun has set on him even before he has achieved anything tangible. /Huisemab became too big for his boots and started taking on fights that were not his. He forgot that he was what he was because of the youth wing structures and not because of his personality, education or connections in the senior hierarchy of the party. To start off with, the young man from the South came to real prominence when, somewhat out of the blue, he was nominated to chair a committee which was basically engineered to oust Jutta Shikomba, SPYL’s deputy secretary, in February 2009. At that stage her suspension was linked to meetings she held at Rundu without the knowledge of SPYL secretary Elijah Ngurare as well as her refusal to explain her behaviour to the national executive committee. Other allegations were associated with factionalism and tribalism. Following a meeting in the garden town of Okahandja a committee was appointed and /Huisemab was the chairperson. Other members were Swapo’s regional co-ordinator for Oshikoto, Armas Amukwiyu, Swapo MP Eveline !Nawases-Kayele and former Nanso leader Neville Andre Itope. Shikomba refused to appear before that committee and that is the main reason why she has found herself in the political wilderness as far as her position in the youth wing is concerned. As can be seen from the above, /Huisemab led a powerful youth committee and even had the protection of the likes of Ngurare to the extent that though he had failed to carry out his duties as Hardap secretary, he remained untouchable. For instance, the youth league suspended former Mariental Urban Constituency Swapo district secretary Jan Johannes Herero and Mariental Rural Constituency Swapo district secretary Simon Dukuleni from their structures. Their sin was that the two, along with Gibeon constituency Swapo district secretary Ivan Pieters and Rehoboth rural constituency executive member Adrian Pieters, not only launched a scathing attack on /Huisemab but also called Ngurare and now Karas governor Clinton Swartbooi his “godfathers”. They also alleged that /Huisemab had stolen party funds and had failed to run the SPYL properly. /Huisemab’s argument then was that the group was instigated by some senior party leaders in Hardap Region and they were blocked from standing for election in the structures. /Huisemab thus survived the onslaught not because of his own character or for what he had done in the structures but due to the backing he had from those in Windhoek. But, as I mentioned some time back, there comes a time in Swapo when ‘dog eats dog’. Those who close ranks to oust others turn against one another as the pie gets smaller. There is nothing wrong with /Huisemab having ambitions to become the youth league secretary but his sin was to forget the masses on his way to the top. Instead of keeping contact and being active at grassroots level, he was more active at national level in other people’s fights for leadership. Now he has paid the price and will wander in the political wilderness unless he goes back to the structures and ‘begs’ for forgiveness. That in itself is a major task as he has made too many enemies, including Hardap governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, whom he previously accused of using fellow youth to oust him. Thus as things stand now, he is not likely to make it to the Swapo congress later this year and it will take him another few years before he can rejoin the youth structures, but by then he may not qualify due to age. His demise should serve as a good political lesson for other aspiring Swapo youth!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Putting To Sleep The Ghost Of Nujoma

WHEN former President Sam Nujoma retired from active politics I rejoiced for one reason: the media were now finally free from bullying at State House media briefings.

Nujoma would call the media to brief them about some very pertinent issue and once he had read his statement, would just stand up and walk out. Those were the times when he was not in the mood to entertain questions – and they were many.
When he was in a fighting mood, journalists could see it from his body language and if you raised your hand for a chance to ask a question, you could expect anything. I remember very well the day he called a media briefing to respond to an article I wrote about retirement packages for ministers and how, out of the blue, when I stood up to ask him a question, he jumped the gun by first wanting to know: “Maletsky? Are you Namibian?”
Journalists can tell many tales about how Nujoma was a master at intimidating and bullying. But some of us later grew accustomed to it. In fact, a media briefing without Nujoma wagging his finger at journalists or some imperialist wasn’t exciting.
But that was Nujoma and, as I’ve said, such bullying became a thing of the past when he left State House.
However, the trend seems to be rearing its ugly head again. This time among some political and economic hopefuls who try to intimidate and humiliate the scribes.
I am tempted to single out unionist Petrus Nevonga of the Namibia Public Workers Union.
Nevonga calls a media briefing and refuses to answer questions. How arrogant is that?
He is not the only one though. This trend is growing among some hopefuls who think media-bashing is a key to their political success, especially in Swapo.
They call the media ‘agents of imperialists’ and running dogs of the rich and powerful in the West yet no one can prove such allegations.
In fact, and if I may say it, some of them are the johnny-come-latelies in politics who hardly know the history of those they are accusing. That really is a shame.
I have no problem when readers or members of the public take the media on over pertinent issues or questionable conduct, but name-calling just for the sake of it and chasing media from briefings they called is hitting below the belt.
Whether they like it or not, the media will continue to be the watchdogs and will continue to expose, inform, educate and entertain.
They have done that for many years and, as my former editor Gwen Lister would remind me from time to time, not even the ruthless Casspirs could stop some of them prior to Namibia’s independence.
Those who try to belittle the media should know that their freedom today is partly thanks to the media (especially those like The Namibian) who exposed the atrocities in the past and, for instance, kept Swapo leaders informed about what was going on in the country
Why would the same organisations who endured so much hardship now be trying to destabilise the country or be out to destroy the Government or some individuals. To whose or what benefit?
If something is wrong, it is best for those involved to admit and correct it. After which they should move on and not keep bullying the media or blaming reporters for their own wrongs.
There are many problems and challenges we face as a nation and should tackle jointly instead of name-calling and fighting among ourselves. One of these, of course, is the high rate of corruption, and if the media have exposed someone’s involvement, they should simply own up to it instead of attacking the messenger.
Love or loathe the media, there is no ignoring them. Not even political gangsterism will achieve that.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jockeying For Positions In Full Swing In Swapo

THE jockeying for key positions such as those of regional coordinators for Swapo is in full swing with some candidates conducting door-to-door campaigns despite a call made by leaders last year that this be delayed until the party congress.

I, for one, support such campaigning because candidates ‘sell’ themselves and what they intend to do for the people they will serve in the region, constituency, branch or section, instead of those who hide behind vague statements such as ‘I will ensure continuity’.
This week media reports said that seven people have entered the race for the vacant regional coordinator position in the Omaheke Region along with those of regional party treasurer, mobiliser, Omaheke Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary and five district coordinators.
The positions are not only key to the party’s proper functioning in that region but successful candidates will surely wield influence in who will attend the party’s congress later in the year, which is set to vote for the vice president, secretary general and deputy secretary general positions.
If that congress adopts the rules proposed by the Swapo Party Youth League, which suggest that the vice president of the party should become the only and automatic presidential candidate (or in the absence of a such person the secretary general or deputy secretary general), almost every Swapo member would probably want to attend it.
But it is not a given that the rules will be adopted. The fact that no movement – in terms of serious discussions at central committee or political bureau level had taken place – means that the leadership intend to keep the race as open as possible.
Thus a candidate who is not in the top four, like Deputy Prime Minister Marco Hausiku whose name continuously pops up in discussions around succession, can also enter the race through a suggestion from the floor at congress.
This is not what, for instance, the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) wants. They want to avoid the 2004 scenario where President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Prime Minister Nahas Angula and former Foreign Affairs Minister Hidipo Hamutenya squared off in a bitter head-on confrontation, with victimisation of, in particular Hamutenya supporters. The latter ultimately left the party and now leads the Rally for Democracy and Progress.
Since President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s outburst about the conduct of the two leading candidates – Swapo vice president Hage Geingob and Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana – Hausiku’s name has also risen to prominence and he seems to have support among the silent neutrals in the party.
Those who support Hausiku’s candidacy claim his election will give recognition to the role played by those who remained inside the country during the liberation struggle and he is senior to Jerry Ekandjo, who also has presidential ambitions. Because of that, they also claim that Hausiku will unite regions.
Hausiku, though, will be a compromise candidate if Geingob and Ithana fail to adhere to the call made by Pohamba late last year.
The camps of the two candidates were on a campaign which involved some victimisation and, even though Pohamba reportedly prefers Geingob, he had to call both to order. Geingob is also believed to have the backing of former Swapo leader Sam Nujoma and the two could be key in determining who becomes the next leader of the party.
As for now, many in the regions are on a serious campaign drive, holding meetings until the early hours, but their primary goal is to make it to regional leadership positions which they regard as the stepping stone to the party’s national leadership.

Let’s Take Responsibility For Our Destiny

MY piece this week is inspired by a sermon delivered by a clergyman last Sunday which centred around taking responsibility.

Pastor Gareth Stead of His People spoke about responsibility – a subject I have touched on in the past.
He said many of us blame others for the situation and circumstances in which we find ourselves but that it was time we accept responsibility ourselves. He pointed out four levels of responsibility:
1) Stuck – you are stuck and refuse to take responsibility
2) Grow – you take ownership and take the challenge head-on
3) Lead – you take responsibility for the situation you and others are in with the view to change it
4) Blame – when you take the blame for everyone else and lead them to change.
For years now, we have blamed everyone else but ourselves for a lot of things we have gone through. We blame the ‘boers’ for our education system, ‘imperialists’ for our poverty and our employers for lack of motivation at work!
As Pastor Stead said: the whites blame the blacks and the blacks (blame) the whites. The coloureds blame the whites on Friday and blacks on Monday. There is always someone else to blame.
I have said it before and I repeat again. Even President Hifikepunye Pohamba, as powerful as he constitutionally is, blames others and keeps complaining when instead he needs to assume leadership and to give serious and stern orders. If you disagree, read his statement at the first Cabinet session or the one he delivered this week when he opened the new session of Parliament. In both cases he spoke of responsibility but sounded like he was begging.
For instance, this week he used words such as “urge” and “encourage” when he spoke about the responsibility of the members of parliament towards the electorate as well as accountability for their work instead of telling the lawmakers that they “must”. It must be an order and there should be timelines to monitor such orders.
If President Pohamba does not stamp his authority on issues and decisions, no one will take him seriously because he is also not taking responsibility and is just a ‘people pleaser’.
Similarly, in our society today almost everyone blames one or the other thing, but seldom takes responsibility themselves. Even the rapist blames his hormones, as Pastor Stead said.
I believe we have long blamed others instead of taking charge of our destiny.
Someone who failed grade 12 at the end of last year is probably 18 to 19 years old now. That person can use the next one to two years to improve the marks and still be able to enrol for tertiary or vocational education and finished it by the age 25.
If such a person lives until the age of 65, he or she will have been productive for at least 35 to 40 years.
However, if the person drops out, stays and ‘rots’ at home and only blames the system, such a person will be unproductive for around 40 years, which is two-thirds of his or her life. Who is to blame for that?
What I mean with the above example is that no matter what happens to you, it is not what happens that really matters but how you respond to it in terms of positivity and turning things around.
There are many examples one can point to but the most important message here is that we need to take charge of our lives and destiny.
Stop the blame game because it helps no one. Instead it is detrimental to our progress and takes up too much of our energy.
I believe that if we are not moving forward, the only thing stopping us is ourselves!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Is It Failure In Planning Or Just Plain Corruption?

THERE is a saying which goes: if you fail to plan, you actually plan to fail.

Many of the events currently taking place in Namibia can be associated with that saying. What immediately comes to mind are the challenges facing our education system and the devastating impact the annual floods have on people in the North.
It is sad for me to start the year’s first column on such pessimistic note but it is as much my duty to point out the wrongs as it is to give praise where it is due.
Floods have hit the northern parts of Namibia for the past several years and, and at least on two occasions, the President declared emergencies. Last year, several people drowned.
Yet, nothing effective has been done since the last floods to prepare for this rainy season.
Hardly any flood relief preparations were undertaken, apart from setting up relocation centres for people left homeless by floodwater.
It is a fact that when a natural disaster like a flood hits, people need immediate lifesaving assistance – emergency shelter, clean water and food.
However, such needs change as soon as the floods have receded and the people seek longer-term assistance to rebuild their lives, and plan a better future for their families. It may seem obvious, but all too often this transition is badly mishandled, putting lives in jeopardy – a situation which repeats itself within a few months.
So why did the Government not do something tangible to prevent this seemingly avoidable human suffering? Why would they permit people to continue living ‘in the water’?
My experience with some corrupt senior civil servants has taught me that they are either waiting or are in the process of setting up companies through links to give one another tenders that will inevitably not be completed.
Some of the senior civil servants in key positions are on record that they do not release funds for projects in regions until they are sure that there are people they can connect with to get kickbacks or to benefit in another form.
That is why some major tenders are advertised and prospective applicants given two to three days to put in bids. The winners of the tenders are already lined up!
In the case of the floods, there is a plethora of laws and regulations that apparently must be set up before work is done. The red tape is used to not only ensnare development but also delay it until such time that funds are redirected for individual gain at the expense of the people.
What is clearly lacking is pressure from the top.
Our leaders need to set very clear goals for the senior managers who have become too big for their shoes. There is no effective monitoring while accountability lacks in many of the projects we are undertaking.
In the past month or so, when our politicians went ‘home’ to rest, some senior officials were wheeling and dealing. By the time the politicians returned to office, crucial decisions had already been made and millions redirected towards cronies we all know will never deliver on promises made in tenders.
And by the time politicians realise their mistakes and want to cancel the tenders, Government must pay millions to get rid of such tenderers.
The situation people find themselves in in the North is the direct result of ineffective management coupled with the selfishness of corrupt individuals.
We are told about a master plan for Oshakati that Cabinet had approved last year and which needs to be implemented.
If all the companies were already in place and those earmarked for ‘public-private partnerships’ were organised, ‘cadre empowerment’ would have been in full swing and some token work already underway by now.
But because those who want to benefit are still fighting it out for the Neckartal millions, their attention is diverted from the North and so the masses continue to suffer.