Whether we like it or not, times have changed. This may sound like a vacuous cliché, but it is a cold hard fact. If you don’t recognize that things are moving forward in every aspect of life in the Land of the Brave, you are already left behind.
This paper’s tag line since 2008 has been “Setting the Nation’s Agenda.” In 2020, it is has changed. Now, we carry the slogan: “Democracy in the Mirror.”
We have changed because we must; Namibia has changed. What we were yesterday is not what we will be tomorrow. Fast communications and technological changes have exploded onto the world scene and taken over. Those with fresh ideas and vibrant points of view will add fire to the Windhoek Observer’s belly.
The results of the elections in November last year were a serious wake-up call. The media, the ruling party and others mired in yesterday’s realities were caught like a kudu in the headlights. We were all shocked about what Itula represents, when the writing had been on the wall for a long time.
The independent candidacy reality foreshadows massive and unavoidable changes in the political landscape in Namibia. People thought to be thrown away or pushed out of power will return to the stage with new vigour. The tidal wave of independent candidates is now the ‘norm.’ The Swapo party while still receiving the majority of the votes is no longer the ‘given’ in Namibian political reality. The old liberation movement chant that, “Swapo is the people and the people are Swapo” hasn’t been true for many years.
The new brand of leaders storming the stage may not wear party coloured scarves and shirts, but they will have the ear of the voters. That matters more.
Fishrot also caught us by surprise. If not for foreign media, it would have gone undetected. The stories and rumours and gossip about massive corruption in government and specifically with the Fish quota allocations have been around for some time. But, we did not move on finding the truth and reporting it. We must do better.
We in the mainstream media failed to fully realize there are new aspirations and a new generation in Namibia that has already emerged. We failed to transfer those priorities to the coverage of the news. Is there any wonder that Geingob, who will turn 80 while in office, dropped precipitously from 87 percent to 56 percent? Swapo’s loss of its 2/3rds majority in the Parliament in the last national election is a flashing red light shouting this change. Media must reflect what is happening the society, or else we have failed.
This newspaper, wrote about Panduleni Itula and the potential challenge of independent candidacy before Itula became a household name. But, we only scratched at the edges of this tectonic shift in Namibian politics.
We focused on Bernadus Swartbooi as a political lightening rod of the future, back when he was fired from his Deputy Ministerial post. People wrote him off because he had fallen out with the Swapo leadership. As he warms a seat in parliament, he puts the lie to those who spoke of his demise too soon. He is the kind of future leader that has emerged in Namibia and will continue to step up. This is kind of news story that must infuse national headlines.
People no longer define someone’s abilities based on their struggle credentials. Effectively providing services to the people is the priority now. We cannot only honour our Nujomas, Pohambas, Angulas, Ndaitwahs, Mbumbas, and our great heroes who have passed on; they are no longer the only reference points for what Namibia needs. As we permanently respect them for creating the foundations of democracy on which we must build, the nation has already moved on and must have solutions for today’s problems with modern ideas.
The attitudes of the people of 2020 have changed. Namibians are more aware of their rights. Democracy is all about knowing your rights and exercising them. Namibians are demanding what they are entitled to under the letter and spirit of the law.
The government will no longer be able to use a heavy hand against the people. If they send the police out to beat up or arrest anyone who “disrespects our leaders” or wears mini-skirts or hairstyles that they don’t like, they will be successfully sued for millions. Military leaders cannot threaten crackdowns and speak out of turn as if there is no constitution. They will be rebuffed. Never before have we seen more people waving the constitution as a shield.
Firebrand Job Amupanda said he would be running for mayor of Windhoek and we believe he will. Affirmative Repositioning (AR) and its blunt critiques about issues of import to the man-in-the-street will not go away. Very soon there will be more ‘Amupandas’ challenging the status quo. They will be active on social media. They will capture the headlines and lead demonstrations. They will stand as independent candidates (or back such candidates) in future elections.
Things have changed. Life is not only in the corridors of power. Moving forward empowered by democracy in the mirror, is the path to a stronger, more relevant future.