Take responsibility

25 August 2017
We are concerned that in the rush to exonerate the sitting president for Namibia’s financial woes, the responsibility for anything negative that happens in the country is being assigned to ‘no one.’  This is unacceptable.
The president is, at the end of the day, responsible for protecting the material resources of the republic.  He swore to this and we hold him to it.
Those who take high office take it for the good and the bad; there is no backing away. You can’t blame others when statistics and outputs are unfavourable. 
Quite conveniently, people limit President Geingob’s culpable time frame for the Namibian economy’s downturn to his inauguration in March, 2015.   While we completely disagree with this limited time frame for Geingob’s responsibility for Namibia’s financial woes, we also see that the president remains liable for adding burdens onto a wagon with damaged, rickety wheels, when his task was to strengthen the wheels and correctly load the vehicle. 
Geingob’s politically motivated move to fast-track the constitutional amendment to increase the number of parliamentarians and create an unnecessary office of a vice president along with the establishment of a multi-million dollar A-team of advisors, continues to cost the country money it does not have. 
An unnecessary and costly four-week trip to the USA, after his triumphant speech at the UN General Assembly, visiting college campuses while not being received for official meetings at the White House, was another faux pas with financial implications. 
While this over-expenditure was not significant in terms of Namibia’s macroeconomic picture, it is tremendously indicative of a leader in denial about his country’s precarious financial position. 
Our disagreement with the March 2015 timeline for the current president’s responsibility for Namibia’s current economic crisis runs deeper.  The sitting president did not drop in 18 months ago from nowhere.  He has been part and parcel of the highest decision-making bodies of this Government since its inception (except for his three years of self-exile in the USA). 
It is a fact that Geingob served as prime minister and chairman of Cabinet meetings between 2012 and 2015 and Minister of Trade and Industry between 2008 and 2012.  He was also Namibia’s first prime minister, serving from 1990-2002.  
He had complete access to secret and overt information, reports, statistics, data and reviews, and from this vantage point, he participated in major decisions over the past 10 consecutive years that have brought Namibia to the point it is today, for good and for ill. 
Since being overwhelmingly elected to the highest office in the land, he has not made the economic situation better, but instead, it has worsened to the most dangerous level this country has ever seen in its 27-year history.  
“We are all entitled to our opinions; but we are not entitled to our own facts,” as the saying goes.
We all know that President Hage Geingob is not solely responsible for all of Namibia’s financial woes; however, we firmly believe that just as applause for success goes to those on top, criticisms for failure must also float upwards. 
The trashing of Moody’s after their recent ratings downgrade of Namibia’s longer term bonds due to certain criteria, is interesting in light of the fact that our leaders usually cheer these international agencies when they ‘rate’ us highly.  We gush with joy about how reputable these institutions are as sources when we like what they say. 
But, then, in the shadow of a presidential press conference where the Head of State and minister of finance painted a ‘things are getting better’ financial picture for the nation, Moody’s said something contradictory.  Instantly, the attitude shifted: Moody’s is wrong, Moody’s is flawed, and Moody’s should be ignored. 
While we echo the sentiments of many Namibian economists about what the Moody’s ‘downgrade’ actually means, we are disconcerted to see how the institution was denigrated for saying something that the president and the minister of finance did not like.
To make it through this financial storm, we must make sure we face realities and look soberly at what went wrong.  This country can make it through this financial crisis with less pain, if realistic solutions for longer term systemic problems like corruption, nepotism and poor financial management are put in place.
 As a nation, we all can weather the storm better if we believe that we are ably led towards better days.


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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