Going overboard means drowning

05 October 2018
The point of communication is to be heard.  It is in that vein that we strongly believe that excessively negative insults, crude labelling and name-calling are not communication, but noise. 
When civil, political or traditional leaders go overboard with negativity, their relevance drowns.
Losing the strong voices of leaders as a part of the national debate on key issues does a disservice to their constituents and can give democracy and free speech a black eye.
We do not support any infringement on the right of free speech and believe that leaders (as well as the man-in-the-street), must never be above criticism. 
That said, we feel that recent statements attributed to the Deputy leader and chief strategist of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), Henny Seibeb, are counterproductive.
We condemn the words and manner of what he said, while defending his right to say them.
With freedom comes responsibility.  We believe Seibeb’s online comments (@hennyseibeb78) and the crude statements referring to the First Lady in an overtone of debased sexual innuendo are way over the top. 
Such comments do no service to Seibeb, his cause and points of view and his constituents.  HOW something is presented is just as important as the actual issues involved. 
Such comments like “Voetsek Hage Geingob Voetsek” achieve what?  How have the problems Seibeb is complaining about been advanced?  How has he served his constituency? 
Leaving such malice in his wake, who would then listen to his statistics, information, suggested policies, timeline for change or calls to action and feel inspired?
In a society where more debate and open announcements must be encouraged, Seibeb, through his unnecessary comments, has thrown mud at free speech.
The usual banal blowback from various segments of society in the wake of such inflammatory statements is to make it illegal for anyone to criticise a ‘leader’ or ‘jail anyone who insults the president’. 
Neither of these myopic calls will ever succeed in Namibia under the current constitution, but discussions, stoked by Seibeb’s insulting comments, allow those with closet dictatorial desires to step into the light and articulate the platform against free expression.
We live in a society where far too many people still think that blindly honouring elders means allowing these aged people to do and say all ranges of things from the wise to the nonsensical to the outmoded to the illegal. 
How many women are molested or mistreated by ‘elders’ and their families, and communities force them to suffer in silence?
How many elders interpret 2018 as if it were 1998 or 1978 and expect to be ‘respected’ and followed in their point of view? 
Seibeb’s past commentary challenging aging leaders to step aside and let other points of view hold sway, had merit.  But taken together with his current round of unnecessary insults, the value of his previously relevant statements is degraded.
Our newspaper works tooth and nail to get people to know that what they feel, think and believe is relevant and ought to be freely addressed should they choose to do so.
But when people abuse individual freedoms through outrageous statements in order to attract attention, it denigrates the fight for democracy. 
Taking his protest too far damages his constituents who need him to speak on their behalf; he is offering no solutions or viable alternative policies to manage ongoing problems or change the direction in which Namibia is going.
Lambasting leaders seems to be what Seibeb is all about.  We note that it is easier to say what you are against and far more difficult to read, analyse, plan and make conclusions in order to clearly state what you are for. 
He no longer communicates when he uses overly derogatory terms and allusions; he is no longer being heard. 
If the Seibeb raison d'être these days is to criticize government for the current failed land policies while advocating for change, insulting and demeaning leaders does not advance his agenda.
Credibility is a basic requirement for those wishing to participate in national debates or provide information for communities. 
Seibeb’s recent foray into the dark side of public commentary is one step across a line that ought not to be easily or casually crossed.  He has lost credibility on many levels.
People must be held accountable for what they say and how they say it. 
Those in the public spotlight or who hold a platform to give information to the public must not be overly crude and flippant or else their relevance drowns. 

 tortise consultancy


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

Contact Us

Windhoek Observer House
c/o John Meinert & Rossini Street
Windhoek West
Tel: +264 61 411 800
Fax: +264 61 226 098