Big statement of intent

22 May 2015

The president has finally declared his assets just as he promised during his maiden State of the Nation address last month.

This is a welcome development in a nation where politicians live under a veil of secrecy for better or for worse.

We have always commended the president for advocating for transparency when it comes to government business. By declaring his assets like he did this week, the president is making a huge statement of intent as he is not obliged by law to do so.

He is telling us that transparency will be the order of the day under his administration, and any inexplicable sources of wealth should be investigated.

Naturally, there are sceptics amongst us who will tell you never to trust a politician. Already, there have been some murmurs on the president’s real motive for releasing his net worth. Some people have said the president is trying too hard to please the public.

Some have even asked if the president divulged everything that he owns and all the sources of his wealth.

As a democratic country where freedom of expression thrives, these views have to be respected and there is nothing wrong with that.

Only time will tell if the president did not misrepresent to the nation the extent and sources of his wealth.

But the president has called on anyone with information about his hidden wealth to come forward and expose him. That is a bold statement by someone with nothing to hide, or is it?

The initiative by the president should be seen as a first step towards transparency in Government which is notoriously known for its secrecy.

As president, Geingob has to lead by example and declare his assets. After this he can now instruct his ministers and others in Government to do the same.

But does declaring assets mean anything really?

Politicians have been known to hide their wealth in trusts, secret bank accounts and through proxies. How does one identify the wealth of a politician held through proxies or family trusts?

This is almost difficult to detect and hence, declaring assets might just be a way by the politicians to hoodwink the public. But that is just our view which might not necessarily be correct.

While declaring assets is the first step towards transparency and is welcome, it is the fight against corruption in the public sector and the treatment of those accused of corruption that will save as a strong test for the president and his administration.

It is a known fact that a number of politicians have lobbied or continue to lobby on behalf of various business interests and such lobbying comes obviously at a price.

Going forward, are we likely to see our politicians declaring their interests during the formulation of Government policy or legislation that affect certain businesses that they represent?

As we have said before, these are interesting times that we are living in.



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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