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What is the public trust worth?

08 April 2019
People must believe that their law makers follow the law, otherwise why should they as ordinary citizens?  The perception of integrity and high standards must come from the very top. 
How can a government complain about law-breaking in society and not carry the aura of hypocrisy, when the actions of its representatives push the boundaries of propriety with no overt and public comment or clarification from the powers-that-be? 
A government that talks a good game about zero-tolerance on corruption arguably has less credibility when its own members or civil servants are entangled in suspected, alleged or proven cases of corruption or violations of felony law.
With what credibility does this country attack the outflow of billions of collective, unaccounted for or miss-spent (purposefully or through lack of logic and due diligence) funds, when its own representatives are involved in ‘grey area’ exchanges, contracts, business deals, tenders and side businesses.
While we loathe commenting on legal proceedings before they are concluded, we are compelled to comment on the unseemliness of a minister, endowed with full constitutional powers and authority, sitting in the dock, charged with corruption. 
At the very minimum, Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa should have been relieved of her duties, with full pay and benefits, until the conclusion of her trial. 
We believe it is unfair to the minister and certainly a stain on the perception of integrity of Cabinet to have sitting ministers in the dock.  The optics do no favours for President Geingob’s administration.
Education is a key ministry in this country with large numbers of grade 10 and grade 12 test failures, a bloated wage bill, teacher housing in rural areas a disgrace, continued disturbing cases of teacher/student illicit relations, increased student pregnancies, students still without enough books and appropriate classroom space and a host of other problems.
How can a minister actively defend herself at trial and attend full-time to her very pressing official duties?
While all people are considered innocent until proven guilty, the issue we pose is whether our political leaders should be held to a higher standard of public trust.  We think so.
Whether one follows the bible verse “…to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48)” or follows the notable philosopher Voltaire, who said, “With great power comes great responsibility”, the point remains the same. 
People with authority are, and should be, held to a higher standard; they must lead from the front.  They are on a pedestal whether they want to be there or not.  It is the downside of the power, perks and prestige of the post.
A disturbing pattern is emerging in Namibia where those in authority remain silent when government officials or leaders are apparently involved in deeds which go against the laws of this country. 
We reiterate a partial roll call of known offenses that include the April 2017 case of culpable homicide against Ohangwena governor, Usko Nghaamwa, who killed a pedestrian at Onankali village.
That was not his first case of ill-deeds with his car. In March 2015, Nghaamwa also killed a cattle herder with his Land Cruiser. 
In 2014, then local government minister, Charles Namoloh, tragically ran over a toddler along the Oshikango road.
In 2013, then Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Tjekero Tweya, was served with summons to appear in the Rundu Magistrate's Court for failing to remove a fence he illegally erected in a communal area at Shamungwa village.
In most countries around the world, government officials involved in such cases would immediately resign with dignity in order to not bring unwanted shame on their government or block their ability to do their jobs. 
In other cases, the appointing authorities would take action and separate themselves from the leader involved (either temporarily until the matter is resolved or permanently.) 
Unless the accused leader is completely exonerated and another culprit unveiled, those accused of breaking the law would be completely unelectable in the future and unable to be considered for any office involving the public trust. 
Their maturity, judgement and integrity to operate at the highest levels of leadership would be damaged.  In Namibia, however, this is not the case.
Our strange modus operandi when dealing with what should be career-ending scandals by leaders is for the government to not utter a single word on the matter before, during or after its resolution. 
And when the infraction or alleged illegal behaviour slips off the newspaper front pages and people forget (except the families of those who may have been killed), life just goes on as if it never happened.  What is the public trust worth when this is the way things happen in Namibia?
These people with scandals and legal entanglements appear repeatedly in different Cabinets over the years as if their worthiness for public trust was never under scrutiny.  What message does that send?
In Namibia, if you are politically connected, the yardstick for measuring integrity is different from everyone else’s.  This should not be the case in a multi-party democracy.
Many people must receive police vetting and security clearances before they can take on various jobs.  There have been recent news reports of prospective employees of the new revenue collection agency, faltering in their job appointments because they lack completed security clearances. 
If they cannot be vetted; they cannot be hired.  Is the nation’s leadership subjected to the same standard?  
The ministers involved in the cases we note in this article remain gainfully employed (some at higher levels) as leaders in government engaged in national decision-making.  Again, we must ask, what message does that send?
While pending cases must work their way through the system fairly, and we make no pronouncement on guilt or innocence in any case cited, we are chagrined that this government seems to give lesser value to the perception of the lack of integrity. 
Remaining silent with blinders on when it comes to leaders involved in various scandals damages public trust.  We believe the public trust is a precious commodity and government must walk the talk and respond swiftly and accordingly to leaders caught in crises to preserve that trust.

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