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Praising Pohamba

20 November 2015
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Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba is a hero of this nation.  It may sound like a clichéd, influence-seeking platitude, but for us, it is a fact that should be repeated and remembered.

Taking nothing away from our distinguished and honoured founding and current president, Pohamba’s modestly effective presidency, non-self-promoting mind set and commitment to fairness set a positive pace for Namibia’s future that deserves accolades.

As a transitional president addressing the elevated expectations of the vast majority of Namibians, following in the footsteps of the irreplaceable and iconic Dr. Sam Nujoma, Pohamba’s task when taking office in 2005, was hampered before he was even sworn in. 

But, he brought the nation even with nation building tasks and managed to carve out a strong foundation upon which all other Namibian presidents can continue to build.

Is this to say that nothing went badly during his two terms as president?  Does appreciating Namibia’s achievements while he was president mean that there was no poverty, hunger, corruption, wasteful spending, tenderprenuers, crime or social ills? Of course not, this is not Utopia, this is Namibia. 

Too many of us have become cynical about politicians, lumping them into the ‘useless’ categories.  But, we do this to our own peril; when the day comes that we can no longer recognize a single positive achievement of anyone, we will be at each other’s throats, fighting forever. 

Peace, democracy, stability, economic growth, increased literacy, decreased HIV/AIDS infection and infant mortality rates and protection of our Constitution must never be forgotten as part of a long list of sound achievements for Namibia during the Pohamba years. 

He peacefully and firmly handed over power according to the oaths sworn when he accepted it. Specific achievements marked by statistical increases in tourism, agriculture, exports, development assistance, mining and manufacturing cannot be ignored. Just as the president historically takes the blame for negatives occurring during his Administration (regardless of the reason why), he must also receive kudos for the positives.

The former president’s decision to step down from the SWAPO leadership when his last presidential term ended, reflects his sincere desire to leave the limelight at the right time, knowing he has done all that he can. 

Pohamba does not allow people to lobby on his behalf or promote him in any way.  He never did this, even before becoming the Head of State and he remains the same way.  He plays no games, does no under-the-table machinations, and does not speak in obscure subtleties. 

With Pohamba, what you see is what you get.  He is blunt without being insensitive; direct without being callous; basic in his view without being naïve and he intensely dislikes liars, cheats and thieves. 

The smile on his face as he patiently listens to someone giving him a ‘sales pitch’ about issues is invigorating to behold.  Some people mistake his salt-of-the-earth view of the world as being uninformed.  When they finish their verbal gyrations and he sums up their wordy dialogue in one or two sentences, pronounces himself succinctly on the matter, and moves on to the next point, they regret underestimating Pohamba. 

In awarding President Pohamba the Mo Ibrahim prize, Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, in March, 2015, the prize committee stated that: “President Pohamba’s focus in forging national cohesion …at a key stage of Namibia’s consolidation of democracy and social and economic development…[and] his ability to command the confidence and the trust of his people is exemplary…he demonstrated sound and wise leadership...he maintained his humility throughout his Presidency.” 

We give constructive criticism whenever we feel it is warranted.  At the same time, we also know when it is time to give a nod to a leader that made life a bit better for his country.

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