Occasional review abstracts

16 November 2012
Author   Theo-Ben Gurirab, MP

POLITICAL party congresses, scrambles and screams for leadership choices, demand total loyalty and the prospective voters are expected to make informed decisions during elections and to do the right thing in the best interest of the country’s people, communities and individuals as directed by party leadership.


But then there is the enigma of secret ballot, the one in the voters’ hearts and the other is where they make the mark on the ballot paper. Democracy which has become forever linked to free and fair elections is becoming louder and diverse, while insistent on transparency, inclusion and verification.

The bottom line is fairness, peace and stability which are preconditions for progress, solidarity and social development. It is now universally accepted that political parties are the best means to mobilize the masses of adherents and supporters of whatever ideology to bring the votes in to ensure victory for party at the polls.

Money has become everything to guarantee victory. Come to think of it, money and elections have become inseparable to the point of becoming like a blood-sucking Frankenstein monster.

When I reached the USA in 1963, I saw reports that the amount of money that John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon spent together in 1960 Presidential election, was like a rich family’s safari expenditure.

The Obama and Romney election reached the new heights. From that point onwards the US presidential elections now cost many billions of dollars. Elections have become synonymous with money and more money. Africa too, Namibia included, is now entering that frightening zone of ‘money makes right’ culture and that’s addictive, to say the least. Is it really that democracy is expensive or is it the stockmarket type of a psychological manipulation of human mind, I wonder?

Well, let’s brave the storm and leave the rest to the fly-by-night scribes and creative cartoonists to entertain us for angst relief. Democracy is here to stay nonetheless and it comes with huge costs. But let’s nurture it. What will make it work and deliver are the people themselves.

Revolutions and development mean the people.

Then there is the matter of ideology which often stands in the way of pragmatism particularly when it’s accompanied by rude verbal noise and confrontation contrary to what the people themselves expect to hear. Those who aspire to be leaders must learn to first listen to the people to know what their priorities are. First measure the level and intensity of the public’s pre-occupations.

The business of the party congresses is not the starting point of political mobilization but where it all ends, followed by elections and subsequently the installment of the lucky winners into positions in respective Party, Government or State structures. Politics is by its very nature cross-cutting and therefore unpredictable. It emulates human nature or guessing game like what we call rainy season in the Erongo Desert.

Let me shift the gear and look to Asia for a refresher. I have a dear friend from Singapore by the name of Kishore Mabubani. In 1998, he autographed his provocative book for me at the United Nations, “Can Asians Think”? That book includes his version of political or ideological “Commandments for Developing Countries......”

They are as follows and I will list them below without commentary on my part about them, except to continue with my narrative henceforth:

1. Thou shall only blame thyself for thine failures in development. Blaming imperialism, colonialism and neo-imperialism is a convenient excuse to avoid self-examination.

2. Thou shalt acknowledge that corruption is the single most important cause for failures in development. Developed countries are not free from corruption, but with their affluence they can afford to indulge in savings and loan scandals.

3. Thou shall not subsidise any products. Nor punish the farmer to favour the city dweller. High prices are the only effective signal to increase production. If there are food riots, thou shalt resign from office.

4. Thou shalt abandon state control for free markets. Thou shalt have faith in thine own population. An alive and productive population naturally causes development.

5. Thou shalt borrow no more. Thou shalt get foreign investment that pays for itself. Thou shalt build only the infrastructure that is needed and create no white elephants nor railways that end in desert. Thou shalt accept no aid that is intended only to subsidise ailing industries in developed countries.

6. Thou shalt not reinvent the wheel. Millions of people have gone through that path of development. Take the well-travelled roads. Be not prisoners of dead ideologies.

7. Thou shalt scrub the ideas of Karl Marx out of thine minds and replace them with the ideas of Adam Smith. The Germans have made their choice. Thou shalt follow suit.

8. Thou shalt be humble when developing and not lecture the developed world on their sins. They listened politely in the 1960s and 1970s. They no longer will in the 1990’s.

9. Thou shalt abandon all North-South forums, which only encourage hypocritical speeches and token gestures. Thou shalt remember that the countries that have received the greatest amount of aid per capita have failed most spectacularly in development. Thou shalt throw out all theories of development.

10. Thou shalt not abandon hope. People are the same the world over. What Europe achieved yesterday, the developing world will achieve tomorrow. It can be done.”

During the following decades, Singapore, which used to be a very poor Asian country, has reached a status of “First World” and became the world’s leading ICT home. Your guess is as good as mine on what Kishore has posed, but mine is informed by evidence which lawyers attach ultimate importance to.

Singapore is what it is today, because of development and excellence, due to Asian mindset, which can think and do things that produce verifiable results insisting on hard work and sticking to the roadmap. Namibia had in the past followed Malaysia’s Vision 2020 and we adopted our own Vision 2030 but thats about it.

Yes, Asians do not only think but they are keen innovators. Together with his mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, whose leadership has turned Singapore into a First World Country, they are trusted friends and advisors to the People’s Republic of China. Thinking, not ideological strait-jacketing, is the real weapon I underline here. That’s a critical point for all my comrades to digest. In any case, ideology and policy appear to have become estranged for many of my compatriots.

The world is changing and moving forward. Globalisation, albeit accompanied by external meddling by powerful forces, is the near and present challenge and Africa must face up to the reality with urgency. That reality must be faced without pretending that Africa is OK!. Africa is poor, confused and lazy.

China joined the WTO by its own free volution and it is effectively counter-acting destructive forces from within. As a matter of fact, this is so because China is today the second largest economy in the world after the USA. For its part, Russia has now been cleared to join the WTO. There, for better or for worse, ideology is left outside the gate. It’s all about competition in terms of trade, finance, credit and the rules of the game, as it were. Also, and this may hurt, China is America’s biggest creditor nation. Let me add here, saying that Cuban Cohibas, the best there is, are readily available in the USA, because the Wall Street tycoons can’t do without them.

I am talking about the real world, and not the dream world, that operates
by balancing competing interests as the world stands today. Well Namibia is now reaping the benefits from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) having back-tracked from the earlier fuss.

I started with my dear friend Kishore Mabubanil including his provocative Ten Commandments. Kishore had earlier posed a question - rhetorical one no doubt - whether Asians can think? We know the answer is yes, of course.

Look at China, Singapore, India,Malaysia and so forth. He later wrote another important and more daring book. Its title is “The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the EAST...(2008).

By that my friend means the first shall be the last. Once again, “Which Way Africa?”

I conclude with a collation of fragments from Aime Cesaires. “There are Two Sides” courtesy of Edward W. Said recorded in: “THE CULTURE OF IMPERIALISM”.

History . . . is not a calculating machine. It unfolds in the mind and the imagination and takes body in the multifarious responses of people’s culture itself the infinitely subtle mediation of material realities of underpinning economic facts of gritty objectives . . . But they were above all inspired by a vivid hope of change, scarcely present before, certainly never before felt with any such intensity or wide appeal; and they were spoken by men and women whose beat to a brave music. These were the responses that moved African history into a new course.


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