21 December 2012

Namibia: 2012 - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


2012 was an interesting and exciting year, but also disappointing. Where to start to reflect on the year that was? Let me start with the first citizen.

Every president has his/her own defining moment. Certainly history will remember President Hifikepunye Pohamba favourably for his leadership during the presidential succession campaign, and the cabinet reshuffle that ensured. It turned out that he is not Captain Schettino who abandoned his sinking Costa Concordia cruise liner. Instead, recent events show that the president is firmly in control and not governing from a balcony while the nation sinks into ineffective administration as some pundits have criticised him for doing.

What transpired is public knowledge. Gwen Lister calls it a decisive leadership, which makes President Pohamba the person of the year. Well, there were some wild cards with his cabinet reshuffle, but thumbs up on the PM, trade and industry minister, and also the foreign affairs portfolio. Obviously, it is too early to know President Pohamba's ambitions for 2013, however if anything can be made out of his cabinet reshuffle, I see fire in his eyes.

But if Pohamba is the man of the year, than the person he recently appointed as his prime minister is the 'comeback kid'. To recap: a demotion in 2002 sent Hage Geingob packing for the US. After his return, he made up with his comrades. The party reciprocated by giving him the position of vice president of Swapo, which is a sure thing to becoming the party's nominee for the country's number one position.

But some within the party challenged the Swapo principle of presidential succession. A nasty and divisive campaign ensued. The rest is history as we now know that HG is the biggest winner of 2012 (which makes Nahas Angula the loser here) and is back to where he started as the first PM. I admit, I still think that it is bizarre to move Nahas to the military. Citizen Nahas is not a military man, but a person you would want to see run a university or be in charge of a research and development think-tank.

I can't, however, say the same for the party's youth wing. The year 2012 was not kind to them, making them the biggest losers of all. SPYL [Swapo Party Youth League] found out that militancy does not pay. Although they have raised and articulated some critical issues (such as youth empowerment, rural development) the wing's militant tone stained that message. Their trouble is that not only did they misread the signs of the time, but they also equated militancy with leadership. The two are as markedly different as Mars is from Venus. Militancy is not leadership, but arrogance. And it's nothing but empty rhetoric.

What I could not understand is why militancy, especially if it seems to be directed at the government and Swapo? My conclusion: the SPYL's preoccupation with rooting out what the wing dubs as 'hibernators' is what led to this catastrophic stand. Consequently, their militancy yielded nothing but a backlash, with Job Amupanda and Elijah Ngurare now the lighting rods of that negative public perception. From the look of things, it appears (from the CC and Politburo election outcomes) that the young and fresh minds have been rooted out from the decision-making structures of the party (as someone put it the other day), leaving the Tanganyika generation firmly in control until perhaps the next congress.

Also outwitted in 2012 were the opposition parties. Unfortunately the limelight was not on them. The media and much of the public discussions were focused on the Swapo succession. Fate would also deal them a terrible blow as the Supreme Court finally tossed out their court challenge to the 2009 national election results, the last remaining issue upon which they seem to have pinned most of their hopes.

For the main opposition RDP, apparently everything is not kumbaya in their house. We are learning that things are falling apart, and the centre cannot hold as a civil war has loomed within the party.

And for the Namibian men, we may as well call ourselves 'Stupid Namibian Men' (SNM), for beating and killing women. This year showed that Namibia is indeed a macho society. Let's face it: the killing and beating of women is symptomatic of a larger issue. Therefore it is time that we reflect on our culture and our attitudes towards women, especially when it comes to sex, marriage, dating, and parenting. Equally, we also probably need to reflect on how our laws and policies are being enforced.

2012 should also serve a wake-up call about corruption, ineffective boards, skewed policy implementation, broken parastatals and workers unions that are letting the Namibian people down. As a nation 2013 is ground zero, and therefore we have to get it right in order to change course. Happy holidays!

*Ndumba J Kamwanyah is a public policy consultant and an Africa blogger for the Foreign Policy Association.

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