Appreciating Pohamba

07 July 2016
It occurs to us that former President Hifikepunye Pohamba is an under-sung achiever and his presidency quietly solidified the foundation of the nation. 
We have seen that it is not his way to demand or pursue applause or recognition.  He takes duty and obligation as it comes and doggedly moves forward and never backwards.
There is a reason why he won the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at the conclusion of his 10 years in office.  The qualifications that award spotlights fit Pohamba snugly. 
Of course, we know that the former president’s two terms were not devoid of shortcomings, missed targets, corruption accusations in disparate parts of the government apparatus, unemployment and housing concerns, a high GINI co-efficient, and other challenges.
But even with that, it is our view that President Pohamba rose to the occasion.   He was ever calm, measured and contemplative. 
We respect his sensitivities to the different ethnic groups in the country and his recognition of the importance of inclusiveness. 
As one of many examples of his wider view of a unified Namibia, we reflect positively on the leadership shown in honouring the late OvaHerero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako with a state funeral, regardless of their opposing positions at critical points in Namibia’s liberation history.
The sensitivity in doing this, as a gesture of national unity and respect for a long-time leader, showed foresight and insight.
His actions in support of the large delegation sent to bring back home 35 skulls and two skeletons of Namibian origin from Berlin and Freiburg, Germany was important to cultural sensitivity and national history.
Pohamba knew the return of these remains was a moral imperative, but also a strong outcry for unity that could not be missed.
It occurs to us that Pohamba never focussed on achieving the rank of President of the Republic of Namibia as his life’s ambition.  His goals appeared to be more grounded in being a loyal and hard-working cadre using whatever knowledge, experience and tools he had available to contribute to building the Namibian nation.
That he became the nation’s second president was an honour he surely accepted, but it was not the culmination of decades of ambition, political manoeuvring, network-building, and strategic decision-making.
We believe that Pohamba saw himself while in office as part of a leadership chain and not as its lynch-pin.  For him, the presidency was not about him.  Rather, it was about having a free, independent, thriving Namibia as a priority.
Whenever he spoke with the media and the public, we felt more inclined to believe that what we were being told by Pohamba was exactly what was going on as far as he knew.
We take note that there was never a need or demand (spoken or unspoken) for President Pohamba and his wife to disclose their income. The thought never crossed our minds.
Perceptions of the Pohamba lifestyle and images of his deportment when holding positions of authority, never pointed the public towards the need for such a disclosure.
There were no serious accusations of self-enrichment by the former President himself during his two terms.  Subsequent concerns around his daughter’s company gains from government tenders are not being ignored when we say this. 
At the end of his last term, Pohamba was more than ready to step aside. Orderly transition of power is something for which Namibia is known and is equally something important that many in this country don’t appreciate. 
Pohamba epitomized this in his decision to relinquish the presidency of the party in which he spent his life, at the same time that he stepped away from the presidential chair. 
We recall that while in office, he discouraged the plethora of expensive full page fawning ads wishing him happy birthday.  He abhorred smooth-talking insiders urging his support for various programmes and ventures by telling him only half of a story, omitting the truth of their hidden personal gains (direct and indirect).
While there may not be stadiums, statues, streets, schools, parks, ships, and other things named after the former President, we respect the fact that he doesn’t chase any of that anyway.  He wants Namibia to thrive and that is the best way to honour him.


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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