The president asked the public assembled in Omuthiya, “Why are people so angry?” As the elected leader of the Namibian nation, he, more than anyone else is in the best position to answer this surprising query.
It is obvious to us why people are angry: the drought is biting, the economic depression is chewing and corruption and waste are spitting out the people’s dreams.
Everyone is aware that budget cuts are causing unemployment in several sectors, slowing down necessary service delivery, and leaving promises of projects and programs unfulfilled all over Namibia. In these days of drought, anger is one of the few things growing well in the rain-starved Namibian heartland.
Anyone with their eyes open must know that many people are frustrated and want effective leadership and reasonable solutions. They are tired of talk and are looking for tangible action.
With a former minister recently convicted of corruption, shenanigans with state money like the N$1.3 revealed as deposited into personal accounts of justice ministry officials, insufficient police protection for local people, high water and electricity prices, no new infrastructure in needy local areas, sky-rocketing youth unemployment, broken-down school hostels, insufficient medicines and health personnel in clinics and dying farm animals - who would be dancing with joy right now?
We are concerned that this question about public anger is another alarming example of the Head of State being disconnected with the day-to-day concerns of the majority of the Namibian people.
Furthermore, the president’s ill-considered comments continued when he said, “People are angry with the government over issues they have no knowledge about.”
We would ask for transparency about these issues the public has ‘no knowledge about.’ Such a comment does not reflect favourably on the president when the implication is that the Namibian people are either too dense to know their own minds or being purposely left out of the information loop about why government-caused actions are negatively affecting their lives.
Geingob dug his verbal ditch even deeper by telling the community in Omuthiya that those who speak out about the ancestral land issue and genocide of using this emotive and sensitive issue for “selfish reasons.” The wider Namibian public hearing such a comment from the president can exacerbate existing frustrations.
This editorial column has commented many times about Geingob’s tendency to say different things to different audiences. Tailoring statements for different communities can make the president appear like a political chameleon when comes to commenting on sensitive local situations. This speaks to his credibility. We note that there was report that a statement about ‘selfish’ people using the ancestral land issue and genocide was made during his recent visits to the South.
With expectations raised by the Land Conference, Namibian-German negotiations about the genocide perpetrated in the former German colony South West Africa in 1904-1908 and the Ancestral Lands Commission, it is difficult to reconcile accusations of selfishness by those who seek fulfilment of the promises made by those policy decisions.
We would rather have liked to hear a presidential comment made before local communities in the North about the need to support fellow Namibians and their need for more information about ancestral land, an official apology for the genocide and serious discussions about a plan for reparations. Let him depict these points as one that requires all Namibians to hold hands and work together.
In the South, the president could have used the town hall platform to discuss the overcrowding in the North and the right of all citizens to live well in our unitary state and the need to accept those fellow Namibians from one area who may choose to move to other parts of the country.
A clear statement supporting the right of any Namibian to buy land and move to or open businesses in any part of the country should have been a part of his statements. In addition, Geingob could have been clear that people seeking to settle and graze livestock in other areas must follow the laws and customs by seeking the support of local traditional authorities managing those areas. Geingob failed to make these kinds of statements that could have done much to bind the nation together.
While we cheer town hall visits by elected leaders, we are critical of the fact that they have not happened on a regular schedule, but have been re-started at tax payer expense, only a few months before elections. It begs the question of whether the president is familiarizing himself with the drought conditions or if the Swapo party president is actually campaigning for office and promoting the ruling party. Reports of presidential requests for local Swapo party leaders to organize meetings concurrent with presidential local public meetings, are a nod to these concerns.
We believe that the president’s town hall sessions should be used to attack the apathy that keeps many citizens from the polls. Encouraging people to work hard to build a better Namibia by voting and paying their rightful share of taxes should have been the agenda. The president could have challenged local people to find local and individual solutions instead of always expecting government to solve all problems.
The people aren’t angry on a whim. There are well-known reasons fuelling it. Rather than asking why people are angry…ask why our elected leaders don’t already know.