Geingob’s missed opportunity

21 August 2015
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President Hage Geingob delivered his maiden speech at the 35th Ordinary Summit of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government, in Gaborone, Botswana on Monday.

The summit took place under the theme “Accelerating Industrialisation of SADC Economies Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital.”

The summit was a perfect platform to share ideas on what the 15-member states should do to accelerate industrialisation which has remained a pipe dream for the countries under the regional block.

For long, the regional body has been criticised as a talk show for the big boys with no real tangible benefits for the region’s inhabitants. It is seen as a platform for the SADC leaders to massage each other’s egos at the expense of critical discourse needed to transform our countries to the next stage of development.

This is why we expected the president, who represents a new breed of leaders on the continent, to touch on a number of pertinent issues affecting the region and move away from the liberation war movement rhetoric that has become synonymous with the SADC regional grouping.

The president had an opportunity to address the dominance of South African retailers in the local economy and other economies in the region as this is affecting our industrialisation efforts under the Growth at Home Strategy.

He also needed to tackle the issue of presidents who have overstayed in power and the consequences to the region. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos come to mind.

Unfortunately for Namibia and SADC, President Geingob decided to devote a greater part of his speech on historical tales and boasting about Namibia’s progress on achieving gender equality in Government (which is not a bad thing in itself).

He even had the guts to make a sweeping statement that “African democratic institutions have matured and our President’s retire in dignity.”

Geingob’s speech must have been greeted with disgust by many Angolans and Zimbabweans who would have expected the summit to face the elephant in the room.

The thing is we don’t need the likes of the US President Barack Obama to come and tell us that leaders should hand over power when their time has come, but that is what will happen when our leaders who have benefited from smooth democratic transitions don’t have the balls to tell Mugabe and Dos Santos to leave power.

Just recently in Addis Ababa at the United Nations’ Third International Conference on Development Finance, the president bemoaned Namibia’s classification as an upper-middle income country which he said is preventing the country  from accessing much-needed “soft loans” and grants to address our developmental challenges.

But on Monday President Geingob spoke about the need to reduce the region’s dependency on official development aid. Which is which Mr President?

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