Mr President: inspire us, don’t shout at us

07 February 2020
With all due respect Mr President, when you hold the highest office in the land and things go terribly wrong, it is on you.  Moreover, we look to leaders for inspiration, not pointing towards their appointees as the bad guys. 
In 2020, the president must own the mess he made and get busy cleaning it up.  Save the theatrical public outrage and use the time to encourage the people to be patient, work harder and strengthen their values and morals in the tough times.
Indeed all presidents have ministers, ambassadors, civil servants, security officers, private sector partners, consultants and advisors engaged to uplift and grow the country.  But, in our case, the man directly elected by the people has the reins of the nation in his hands.  Being Head of State is not a small thing.  Geingob’s duty is to guide the horse.  He must be responsible to change the path, change those who take care of the horse, or change the rules of the race in order to reach the finish line.  If the wrong people are on the team or the horse runs off the track, in the wrong direction or if the rider falls asleep in the saddle, then, the loss of the race is the fault of the man with the reins.
Drought, economic recession and inherited problems aside, Geingob had the power to uplift the nation in his first administration – he didn’t. Screaming at the team and blaming them for all that has gone wrong is no amelioration of ‘Geingob Guilt.’  Threatening to fire those who did not perform in the last term of office, means that he is prepared to fire himself. 
Mr President, you are in the driver’s seat….so drive and stop pointing fingers.
The first presidential speech of the New Year should inspire the nation in its time of worry.  People are frightened of losing their jobs.  They have let insurance policies lapse and delayed in servicing their cars.  Some have missed home loan, car or credit card payments.  Many are in arrears in their municipal bills. They have sick children and elderly parents and worry because government hospitals and clinics don’t have enough medicines and healthcare personnel.  People fear that their children won’t have a place in a decent school.  They wonder where to find the money for uniforms, stationery and other school fees. 
Instead of inspiring us to be strong, he shouted at his Ministers blaming them for the crisis Namibia faces.  If this country’s economy was thriving, Geingob would be the first one to demand the gold cup and claim it was all his doing.  When the chips are down, it is the Cabinet’s fault.  We heard a speech that seemed to say, “I did everything perfectly.  Everyone sabotaged me, performed poorly, travelled too much, was lazy and uncommitted, and because of THEM, Namibia is sinking.”  We beg to differ. 
This underlying meaning from the president’s Tuesday statement to Cabinet is preposterous.  For example, the ‘sacrifice’ of a six month travel ban is hollow. If we were cynical, we could say that his travel diet is because there are no western nations that have invited him during that period or he doesn’t want to answer an aggressive foreign media’s questions about Fishrot.  His infamous globetrotting while there is no money for medicines in state hospitals has gone on for years.  Geingob usually ignores criticism about that.  Now, it is probable that there is no such money (in hard currency) for his travel in any event. 
We wonder why the president did not stand in front of the people and his Cabinet for the first official time in 2020 and take ownership of the mess that the nation is in.  Then, he should apologize to the people.  As the man in charge, he is responsible.  Namibia is a nation of forgiving people.  Even those who did not vote for Geingob in 2019 would give him another chance if he owned the problem and presented a coherent plan for substantive change. 
Instead, his speech was full of landmines of incredulity.  For example, he used the term ‘so-called’ in referring to the Fishrot debacle.  He may not have meant it this way, but using the term ‘so-called’ can be interpreted to mean that he does not believe the fishing scandal is real or serious.  He accused his ministers of being out of touch with the needs and attitudes of the people.  We agree and believe that accusation fits him as well. 
Our journalistic jaw dropped to the ground when we heard the president say:  “The people decided to renew the mandate of the ruling SWAPO Party and myself as the President... this result [is] the voice of the electorate saying; we still trust you and have confidence in you.”  He sees the cup as half full when it is leaking.  Rather than getting a new cup or fixing the crack, he is doing a victory dance over the fact that there is still something left inside.
The president is failing to ‘spin’ his loss of 31 percent support between his landslide with 87 percent in 2014 and his teeth-gritting win in 2019 with 56 percent.  He did not state that he only missed a run-off election by 5.3 percentage points.  He did not say that he barely won with a percentage that is the lowest so far in 30 years of a free Namibia. 
The president says that his victory percentage is significantly higher than the next candidate in the polls.  And yet, the amount received by the opposing candidate is the highest amount ever garnered in any presidential election.
Most critically, he downplayed the loss of the Swapo supermajority in Parliament which has been solid for three decades. That is more than a message being sent or received.  That is a reduction in power for Swapo.  The 2019 election results are a deflating game changer for Geingob and Swapo.  
The politicized noise of Geingob’s dressing down of his appointed Cabinet reached a crescendo when he brazenly repeated that the Fishrot, Harambee collapse and economic depression year of 2019, was the Year of Accountability.  Then, amazingly, he doubled down on his embarrassing “Year of” claims and said 2020 is the Year of Introspection.  Indeed, there is much about which to introspect. We hope Geingob is asking himself what he did wrong, what he can do to fix his vision for the country, whether he has the energy as a soon-to-be octogenarian to be president and how he can find new ideas to lead this nation out of its troubles. 
Mr President, inspire us – don’t shout at us.

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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.

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