On an issue as sensitive as land is in Namibia, our president must take great care not to shade, qualify, backtrack and obfuscate his position. He must be consistent, clear and concise. He ought not to change his position or presentation of his position solely based on which audience is before him. It sends the wrong signals.
We take note with alarm that our president on his state visit to Zimbabwe this week reportedly sought advice from President Mugabe on the land question.
While President Geingob denied this as the purpose of his visit, in an opening speech for the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo, he said: “I once said that Zimbabwe was delivering a child through Caesarean section [referring to solving the land redistribution problem], it might be painful, but the baby will have been born…whereas we (Namibia) are trying to expect the child to be delivered through the normal nine months [which] has now become 27 years.”
Using the birth of a hopeful and innocent baby by Caesarean section as a metaphor for the disastrous, economy-devastating land-grabbing and violence that plagued (and still haunts) Zimbabwe 17 years ago, is inaccurate to say the least. We are therefore, concerned about what is meant by such a reference.
We remember well the president’s statement on the land issue at the conclusion of the meeting with the Affirmative Repositioning group in July 2015 where he said, “The Namibian Police (Force) are to be commended for re-assuring Namibians and investors that Namibia will continue to enforce its constitutional obligation to defend property rights and maintain law and order.”
We further recall his statement at the SWAPO Khomas regional leadership meeting in March 2017 where he said, “To those who are saying the war (liberation struggle) was for the land, go and check. We never said (it was about) land; we said [it was] to free the country – to get our independence…”
And, of course, we all know he made a statement during the Independence Day celebrations in Rundu that all would have to buy the land instead of grabbing it because the government must apply fairness in governance.
So which is it? Willing-buyer, willing-seller was a mantra reflected by the president when discussing the land issue on his four-week expensive tour of the USA in September/October 2016 and across the country at various places. He has now critiqued that programme and stated that it is in need of a re-think.
We also remember the well-reported flip-flops on the issue of support for NEEEF (New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework). With South African reporters, on the record, he abandoned the proposed legislation. Upon return to Namibia, he said it was the legislative vehicle of choice for the administration.
We feel that the president is skirting very close the edges of lying to the public or worse, being unclear about what position he really has. And we long for consistency in positions regardless of the audience to whom the president is speaking.
Geingob ridicules Namibian civil society that stands up in support of the return to their ancestral land and dubs them as people who hate peace or seek to rile up the masses that do not yet realise they are poor and landless. And yet, in Zimbabwe, he received cheers for seeming to support the land grab of 2000, exactly so that those people could regain by force, their ancestral land.
We hesitate to compare our leaders but we long for the days where President Pohamba made us all feel included, rather than being called names for having a point of view different from the administration. While our honoured former president was not without error during his 10 years in office, we appreciated how he went to the towns of the south and openly acknowledged the injustice done to the Nama people and pledged to handle the problems. He did not do this to pander for votes at an upcoming congress, he did it because he honestly wanted a solution that helped the people and he was consistent in his core positions, regardless of which audience he addressed.
We believe that our distinguished president has a complex personality. He is sophisticated and ambitious; both traits are necessary in a national leader. But, much of the tumult surrounding some of his contradictory statements is rooted in the fact that his main ambition at this moment is to win the presidency of the SWAPO Party. He wants a second term as president; this is his main goal, come what may. As the time for the Congress draws closer, we wonder what other populist issues will become a larger part of the President’s repertoire of rhetoric. And that makes us wonder what will actually be achieved as a priority after the smoke clears, and if the president achieves his highest current ambition.
We urge consistency for clear messaging to the public. The president still enjoys the support of his constituency and they deserve to know what is or is not the position of their elected leader.