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

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!