21 September 2017

Namibia: First Lady Responds to Critics of New York Trip

Photo: The Namibian
President Hage Geingob and First Lady Monica Geingos of Namibia
opinion

Below is an abridged version of First Lady Monica Geingos's response to queries regarding the presence of her family members in New York, where she and her husband, President Hage Geingob, are attending the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

I have accepted social media driven scandal-mongering as the "new normal", so I was cautiously optimistic that providing facts to the Misa regional director, Ms Natasha Tibinyane's questions on Twitter on 18 September 2017 would bring sanity to the above questions.

Ms Tibinyane, a former journalist and Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Namibia director, occupies a position of authority as a media expert and staunch advocate for media freedom. Like Ms Tibinyane, I believe in accountability.

I was thus hesitant to allow my private duties to my parents, children and siblings to interfere with my acceptance of my duty of accountability as a First Lady and a patriotic Namibian. I therefore confirmed to Ms Tibinyane that no state resources were [used] in the New York travel of any relative.

I find legal discomfort in being placed in a situation where people create false allegations against my family and I am then made and required to prove that such allegations are untrue. I am of the view that in such circumstances no duty arises on my part to warrant the production of private documents.

It is painful to see the inclusion of my parents in these types of spurious claims. Had my parents been funded by taxpayers' money to holiday in New York, it would be a dereliction of duty for any media house to pander to the sensitivity of an individual regarding their parents.

My parents are not in New York and the journalists who were referenced by Ms Tibinyane as having told her that they knew of the presence of my parents in New York were either lied to, or have lied.

In this day when insult dialogue appears to have become the norm, I would like to make a sincere plea that we accept dependent children and parents as no-go areas for our scandal-mongering, particularly where no public interest exists.

On the presence of siblings in New York

I have five siblings, two of whom are in New York. One sibling is with her employer on official assignment to the United Nations General Assembly. The second sibling is here for leisure. She travelled on a commercial flight and is staying at a hotel, which is about 1km away from our accommodation.

I generally caution those around me to be careful around social media postings due to my subjective aversion to sharing too much information on public platforms. I am, however, aware that my subjective views do not overpower an objective evaluation of the rights of individuals to post as they please, as long as such posts are not in violation of any laws.

Put differently, the posting of a sibling's 'selfie' at Times Square in New York does not warrant unsubstantiated allegations that my parents and "whole family" are on holiday at the expense of taxpayers.

"Public interest relates to common, public interest, which is triggered by government actions which affect the rights, finances or common wellbeing of the public and I don't believe this issue qualifies as public interest.

Over the last decade and for as long as I am alive, I have and will continue to spend substantial private resources for the care and maintenance of my immediate family and as long as I don't do so at the expense of taxpayers, I humbly request that my privacy in this regard be respected.

I would like to confirm that my son is also in New York for the purposes of making the following point - I convinced my son, against his preference and at my cost, to travel to New York, as I don't see him frequently and the clash between this trip and his academic break was irreconcilable.

I would be deeply pained if my decision to ensure I execute my parental responsibilities and spend time with my son is scandalised as an abuse of state resources, or "untimely", as it is entirely within my discretion to make this decision of who in my family I would like to indulge or spend time with.

The only reason his presence has not been queried is because he hasn't posted a picture of himself on social media. I would hate to imagine a world where social media has become the unfiltered source of news for mainstream media.

If there was a time we required professional and investigative journalism, it would be now, as social media has become the crime scene for the production of weaponised lies.

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