Can we believe what is said today?
As a media house committed to setting the nation’s agenda, we are compelled to raise questions over the aura of contradiction that seems to be emanating from State House.
We take note with serious concern when policy proclamations by president Geingob are made and then effectively retracted by other statements or regulatory actions later on.
As citizens, regardless of whether we agree with the policy announced, we want to know that when our leaders make their declarations, then, that is what will happen.
Consistent ripples in the basic trust relationship between those governed and those who do the governing can raise credibility questions. These questions tend to bring all government proclamations, policies, and regulations under the grey cloud of doubt. And, that doubt tends to weaken the country.
The nation must know that the policy statement we hear today is an informed and considered one, and will be the same statement we hear tomorrow, unless there are announced reasons that cause a justifiable shift.
We’ve grown concerned that perhaps the President’s need for public applause and approval of the different audiences he addresses is more important than standing firm on controversial or conflictual policy decisions.
Not all of the President’s decisions will be popular and garner smiles and applause. But, if those decisions are the considered outputs of official mechanisms and consultation processes, then they must be articulated and defended by all of those who choose to represent the government.
Our position on this is not new; we’ve expressed our concerns in various editorials and news articles which have outlined previous flip-flops on policy.
We understand that it made sense for the government to reverse itself on its full support for the N$2 billion new parliament building (at least for now) when the nation vociferously and unilaterally screamed against it and the treasury coffers ran dry.
But, the recent 360° turn on NEEEF as evident in presidential comments made in a recorded interview that was widely publicized, is rather confusing and worrying.
First, the president said that NEEEF as a policy “…is not going to happen” because “…We are not here to work against one group…We don’t want to send the wrong signals to investors...”.
And yet in a speech at Columbia University this week, the president affirmed his government’s continued support for NEEEF.
Our eyebrows were raised when we read Geingob’s statements against NEEEF and now our mouths are agape in surprise at this reversal.
We understand that decision-makers, including President Geingob, sometimes, change their platforms, manifestos and positions. If not done constantly, this is healthy under certain conditions.
We want our decision-makers to hear new information, respond to research, data and facts and to listen to the cries of the people affected by their laws and policies.
Decision-makers that can only back their own points of view regardless of any other information are dangerous to democracy.
Our concerns in this matter are not based on the change of positions, but rather on the fact that we are uninformed about why the about-face on positions occurred.
This leads us to believe that either the original policy position was uninformed or that the new position is based on convenience (or vice versa). Either way, we are concerned.
This latest reversal on NEEEF by the Geingob administration is not the first publicly announced policy switch.
Early in the administration, we recall presidential statements indicating a positive inclination to eliminate the willing buyer/willing seller approach to the land ownership question.
The president indicated that those with land from the previously advantaged group of Namibians were not acting in good faith and were seeking to hold on to their apartheid/colonial era ill-gotten gains rather than respond to the nation’s need to have better land opportunities for a wider number of citizens.
But, later, he indicated that regulatory re-allocation of land (with or without compensation) would never happen in Namibia. The question begs: Does the administration support continuation of willing buyer/willing seller or not?
We recall the bodacious pronouncement by the President when the AR deadline for national marches in July 2015 approached, that 200,000 serviced plots would be made available.
These smiling handshake-sealed agreements diverted the national momentum towards having that march at that time. But, it wasn’t until the one year anniversary of the unfulfilled promise loomed, that in a new proclamation from Geingob, he stated that wants to build 20 000 houses and service 26 000 plots within the next four years as part of his Harambee Prosperity Plan. The question begs: was the original 200,000 house promise serious or not?
We noted the turn-around on the previously supported N$7 billion airport renovation project at HKI. Contracts were happily signed by the then Prime Minister Hage Geingob as he represented and supported the development plans of the previous administration.
Later, in his own administration, there was a stampede to vacate those signed agreements and the matter ended up before the courts where government recently lost the case. So, does the president support the renovation of that airport or not?
This list could be continued as other examples to policy changes and conflicts exist.
The people must know that the statements, policies and political positions of its President are well-considered and consistent. Otherwise, future pronouncements can be immediately in question and trust can decline even further.