While we all wait on tenterhooks for an arrest, trial and conviction of the unknown, but horrific murderer of nine-year-old, Avihe Cheryl Ujaha, we cannot help, but jump at shadows and tremble in fear for our own children and ourselves.
When the fog of fear stalks a nation, its leaders must immediately and consistently step up to the front and shine the light of reassurance.
We must ask the question, are we safe in the Namibian House?
With a fretful nation struggling in the grips of extreme economic pressure, more joblessness, rising prices, increases in all types of crime and now barbaric child murders, we echo a concerned nation as it asks what is being done by government to lead its people out of fear and uncertainty.
We take note of the sympathy shown by the vice president and other leaders who visited the bereaved family to cry with them and share their pain; it was necessary and touching. But, leading a nation out of insecurity for their personal safety requires more than weeping.
Action is needed, even if initial responses address symptoms rather than causes. Unequivocal statements assuring the public that the rule of law is still paramount in Namibia are needed, even if we have heard these statements before. People need to believe that their government will keep them safe.
Right now, we lack a loudly authoritative leadership voice and we call for this government to find its feet on the issue of safety in the Namibian House and address the nation specifically (and regularly) on this subject.
We point to the crisis surrounding the venerable Immanuel Kauluma Elifas, King of the Ondonga people and the difficult struggles this ailing and vulnerable lion now faces at the sunset of his reign.
We saw how Founding President, Sam Nujoma, immediately visited him during his time of need as a gesture of support, sympathy, protection and respect. This immediate leadership action in the midst of a painful and culturally-charged situation is how bold, determined leadership can deflate an impending storm.
We have a long memory and recall just after independence in 1991 when the infamous Rooi Oog or Red Eye gang spread bullets and fear all over Katutura. We felt reassured when then sitting President Nujoma busy with bringing the new Namibian nation to light, recognised what domestic terrorism looked like and stepped up to reassure the people.
We recall when he ordered police leaders to take action and increased patrols that began shutting down the worst of the gang. People heard Nujoma’s angry voice, listened to his orders, and felt assured that something was being done to keep them safe.
At times, a leader’s promise of ‘something being done’ backed up by tangible evidence of those plans, is all the people really need to calm down. Where is that sort of leadership assurance now, while we wrinkle our brows in fear every time our young ones leave for school or play?
We juxtapose the sense of fear in communities starved of reassurance from leaders against the swift political retribution to social media commentary by Professor Joseph Diescho that offended the SWAPO Party and come up short in the comparison.
The overkill embodied in the visceral response by Hilma Nicanor, party secretary for information who called a press conference to “defend the president against insults” she feels were made by Diescho, epitomizes our point.
SWAPO called one of its first media conferences about a petty issue involving Diescho, adding the crisis about the tragic murders of children almost like an afterthought. This is out of balance in terms of the priorities of the stressed Namibian public.
Quite correctly, SWAPO proudly proclaims that it is the elected ruling party. Therefore, it must rule. The responsibilities of that role cannot be cherry picked with major policy statements made on superfluous issues that are not of national import in these hugely troubled times.
We are so starved for reassurance that we feel almost at the point of wishing we could reach back to a time when we felt powerful leadership and urge our esteemed and august Founding President to step to the podium to reassure frightened Namibians.
We need leaders who see a match being thrown onto the dry grass and know that they must move quickly with a water bucket of assurance before the blaze gets out of control.
Someone must tell that murderer that he is being hunted. We are not asking for new safety programs, but demanding that those programs already in place, be funded and implemented to their fullest extent with immediate effect.
Why not task the police or the defence forces (those without current duties) to patrol dry river beds, crime hot spots, and locations of known gangs? This national safety action could apply not just in Windhoek, but in other areas of the country where violent criminals are preying on the people.
Why not establish temporary joint police/NDF night patrols, escort people who have just been paid as they go to their homes or show ‘presence’ around our schools and where our children do sports and play.
These are certainly not permanent solutions, but they are tangible assurances to a jittery public that someone with power is in charge.
The public is crying out for a sense that their government is doing everything possible, under these tough financial times, to protect its children and most vulnerable citizens.
The focal point for leadership in times of trouble is the presidency. Notwithstanding the president’s FOCAC trip, a consistent leadership presence to reassure the nation is needed.
Is the Namibian House safe? We are uncertain right now and look to the head of the house to let us know.