Liars’ lament

04 December 2015
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A report from State House noted that President Hage Geingob referred to the Namibian people as “liars” in the context of reacting off-the-cuff to comments from those who claim that in his nine months in office, he hasn’t lived up to the hype and promises made. 

The media reported some months ago that the president had referred to State House Permanent Secretary Samuel /Goagoseb as “useless,” though we are unclear about the exact context of that particular comment. 

It is not our point to argue the merits of the subject to which the president was responding, but it is our intention to question the choice of words used by our distinguished, learned and experienced Head of State. 

We all have the right to free speech, even a president.  But freedom to say it does not free one from the responsibility of having said it. 

We all are living in one Namibia, one nation; so who are these ‘liars’ to whom the president reportedly refers?  Our mothers and mee kulus?

Words are powerful.  Public injudicious labelling of people can tend to diminish prestigious office bearers; in this case, the president.

We recall that this very same president correctly insisted that Minister Bernard Esau apologize for defaming the name of the late former Minister Abraham Iyambo, implying that he had accepted bribes from the fishing industry.

Clearly, our president knows that words spoken publicly, whether in the heat of the moment, intended or unintentional, by national leaders can leave a lasting nasty smell in the air. 

Swapo Party Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba is still reeling from the extremely negative backlash from his unintentionally insulting statement in Oshiwambo derogatorily referring to “you poor people” in reference to a sort of ignorance of the people.

Many cringed when that blurb was first said and at the resulting deluge of offended responses from across the country.  His apologies for that gaffe are never-ending. 

So, what now shall the president say for himself if he indeed has called his own people, ‘liars’?

We feel strongly that such off-hand, roughly spoken comments can bring out responses in the same vein.  This is difficult to stomach for most of us as we feel compelled to speak to a Head of State in a dignified manner. 

We searched for reasons why the usually savvy and in-control Geingob, blurted out the word ‘liars’ in reference to Namibians.  Could it be that the president is under pressure to live up to the massive over promises that have been made in his less than one year-old tenure in office? 

Is it that the president is handing over a house to one person and spending 20 percent of his salary on bursaries for a few students because he is out of aces in his hand in terms of national solutions to national problems?

Are there no game-changing, systemic alternatives pending from this administration?  200,000 serviced plots have been promised to avoid an AR rebellion, but we all know that many cannot be delivered any time soon. 

Has our president over-committed us and is feeling the pinch?  The pressure of falling short on expectations raised can push a leader to the wall as people look up to him with empty bellies and anticipatory eyes. 

Could it be that with an 87 percent mandate at the ballot box for him specifically to be the Head of State and the recent landslide Swapo victory in the regional elections, are still not enough to assure this president that he is the true leader of the people and that empty promises are not needed? 

Is that uncertainty within him causing a pressure that forces him to let down his guard enough to use rough terms in public arenas in reference to his own supporters?

If the president indeed used the term “liars” in referring to tendencies of the Namibian people, will there be an apology? Is such name calling in public the ultimate arrogance of power peeking out?

We throw these questions out there for pondering.  But, we declare that many ‘liars’ went to the polls to support Swapo so take it easy on us and give us kinder, gentler labels even when we may say and do things that are disappointing or frustrating.

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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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