If you differ, you’ll regret it

11 December 2015
Author  

The recently publicized troubles of Professor Joe Diescho, the axed Director of NIPAM bring to mind some disturbing reminiscences.

We wonder whether critical comments Diescho made in the past against the then Minister Hage Geingob and the current written media critiques he has made are the reason for his axing and the exposure of the miscues plaguing the erstwhile professor.

Make no mistake:  We hold no sympathy whatsoever for anyone expecting that tax payer funds should cover their personal bills and who lives with a sense of entitlement.  Diescho miscalculated by making himself vulnerable to such exposure and ridicule. But in examining Diescho’s dictums of trouble, we see a deeper issue that needs to be prodded.

Diescho may well have permanently put his neck in a noose by speaking frankly in the past and recently about our Head of State and negatively critiquing Government and Swapo Party politics.  It is entirely possible that our president might have unkindly remembered Diescho’s stinging insults. 

In 2006, we recall that Diescho referred to our current president as an ‘opportunist’ after Geingob called him a ‘political prostitute.’  The barbs went back and forth as Diescho said he doubted if Geingob knew the difference between an opportunist and a prostitute.

He added that while he was known for his deeply held ideas of liberty, the same could not be said of Geingob.  Ugly words indeed.

Some of Diescho’s opinion pieces and statements over the years since that spat have been blunt in criticism of the ruling party, the sitting president and his predecessors as well as Swapo’s various policies and actions.

One has to balance this reality with the ‘sudden’ revelations about his living expense arrears.  Whatever bills Diescho was racking up over nearly two years were not done in secret.  Why the revelations only now?

We have been reliably informed that Diescho was asked by high officials to stop writing his column, but that he declined stating in essence that he was free to write when, where and what he chose.

We believe Diescho crossed a line that has made him fair game for attack.  His own self-serving indiscretions have provided the ammunition and opportunity.

Consider the reports on the million dollar (and rising) hotel bill of the Minister of Defence and how that is fading away from headlines with no publicized resolution.  Without AR’s flashy critique and demand for legal action, the item may have been buried by now.

Is the lack of administrative attention to that hotel bill because the minister is ‘in favour’ and therefore, protected? “You’re covered as long as you don’t overstep” – is that the message here? 

We believe that high profile people who may take short cuts are protected by the system as much as possible, but that protection comes at a price.  That cover is an ‘axe-over-the-neck’ used as a tool of control to make sure everyone marches to the same drummer on every issue.  Step off the path and that axe falls; embarrassing revelations or worse are soon to follow.

We note a certain irony in this situation with Diescho’s reportedly unpaid municipal bills.  When the current president was ‘out of favour’ back in the day, his enormous unpaid City of Windhoek bills were paraded in the media.  It was an embarrassment and a painful time for him and for those of us who support him.

Now, enter Diescho, making noises that some people don’t like, and his delinquent water and electricity bills and other housing quandaries (including his huge hotel bills paid with state funds) hit the front pages. 

We think that people who suffered from publicity about their errors shouldn’t easily abide others being exposed in the same way. They, more than others, know exactly how it feels to be hurt like that.

In a moment of levity, we wonder if any grudge will be held against us for our criticisms.  But, luckily, our municipal bills are paid up to date.

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