19 April 2013

Namibia: Pohamba a True Statesman


SINCE assuming office in 2005 President Hifikepunye Pohamba has made it a tradition to conduct annual consultations with church leaders, opposition leaders and the leaders of civil society groupings. During these consultations the President discusses with his guests at State House a raft of issues concerning our nation.

Consultation with opposition leaders is one of the rare leadership qualities that set Pohamba apart from many of his contemporaries. It takes a great deal of courage and vision for a leader particularly the president to invite people who during presidential elections had campaigned vigorously against him.

Pohamba who is known as a great political strategist is a good leader who over the years has shown humility. He is passionate about the wellbeing of all Namibians, including that of his political adversaries because he is a father figure. Unlike the iron-fisted and autocratic rulers who ruled from the 60s to the 80s during the Cold War and many of whom suffered from the "big man syndrome" Pohamba and his predecessor the Founding Father of the Nation, Dr Sam Nujoma have laid a rock-solid democratic foundation for future generations.

Of course not all Africans who ruled in the 60s through to the 80s were autocratic. There were exceptions in the mould of nationalists and the champions of African independence such as Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia) and Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe). Before that diaspora Pan-Africanists such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey are sometimes called the "old generation of African leaders." Coming back to the topic at hand President Pohamba should be commended for being receptive even to his political rivals whom he invites each year.

At these meetings his guests are free to share with him and to share views on various problems affecting our country such as the state of the economy; the state of the health sector; education and agriculture among other pertinent and pressing issues. n other African countries those in power persecute their political rivals whom they rarely have time for, because they regard them as a nuisance and the worst "enemies of the state," who should be locked up in jail on flimsy charges.

And being in the opposition could be a risk undertaking fraught with the danger of either being jailed on trumped up charges, being tortured or risk limb or life. Even after he graciously completes his two-term tenure one of the many good attributes the beloved Pohamba will be remembered for is his politically astute and consultative approach, which has become the hallmark of his statecraft. This patriotic approach could teach other African leaders that you can placate your political opponents by listening to their views even if you do not necessarily agree with what will be said by them all for the good of the nation.

Our government appreciates the fact that political parties play two important roles in any political dispensation: either they form a government or they serve in the opposition. Democracy is also being described as a certain type of relationship between the incumbent (ruling) party and the opposition parties characterised by contestation and participation. While the opposition parties are minority parties that enjoy legitimacy even if they do not wield executive powers. In Namibia we enjoy political stability, fundamental human rights and freedoms and all citizens have the right to participate in political activity without fear, for we are governed by the rule of law.

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