A duty to celebrate our victories

By Dr. Alfredo

Tjiurimo Hengari

AFTER decades of fighting for the liberation of the oppressed and humiliated black majority of our country, 19 June 1989 marked the return of the senior leadership of the liberation movement, SWAPO. The first team of freedom fighters led by a 46 year old Hage G. Geingob, included men and women of destiny who would later play a prominent role in shaping post-independent Namibia. As you can imagine, their arrival on that day was fraught with risks and dangers. Worse, we faced the potential of a civil war and the humiliation of a failed political transition. The doomsday scenario did not occur.

Thirty years later, we have risen as a democratic state and the leader of that 19 June 1989 delegation, President Geingob, the last of the venerable Tanganyika generation is serving a final term in Office as Head of State of our Republic. During his long journey as a freedom fighter and career as political leader, whether as Founding Prime Minister, dismantling the Apartheid infrastructure of Bantustans, and later as 3rd Head of State leading industriously during times of crises, including COVID-19, President Geingob has emphasized, lectured, extolled, and will continue to live by the foundational virtues and values of our Republic, of which freedom of expression, thought, movement, peaceful assembly and the press is part of many in our impressive bouquet of rights.

Governance by the Constitution and respect for processes, systems and institutions imply that there are many zones of progress in our Republic. In fact, the 2020 Mo-Ibrahim Index on African Governance released last week concludes that from 2010-2019, Governance, Economic Opportunities and Human Development in Namibia improved. Oddly, we should apparently not talk in headlines about our own progress as a nation. Unquestionably, our Republican journey of 30 years is not without flaws. Informal settlements are a scar on our conscience as a nation and undermine the dignity of our fellow citizens. It is why following the landmark second land conference of October 2018, President Geingob declared informal settlements a humanitarian crisis, which has since 2019 been identified as a top government priority among many, including youth unemployment. Resources have been deployed to fight for the dignity of all through decent shelter and Government will share the Economic Recovery Programme with the nation soon.

For the year 2020, economic prospects looked positive until the arrival of the Covid-19 global pandemic on our shores on 13 March 2020. President Geingob has stated on numerous occasions that Covid-19, an external intervening variable without a passport has impacted our fiscal position and socio-economic trajectory in unimaginable ways. It would as a consequence be entirely dishonest to engage in an excessive blame game for conditions occasioned by Covid-19. Yes, it is the business of President Geingob to ensure that we emerge out of this Covid-19 occasioned morass with minimum damage to our socioeconomic livelihoods. And the President is doing just that, protecting health and livelihoods of Namibians. Similarly, it is also our business as citizens and stakeholders in the future of this country to ensure that we fight Covid-19, and its unintended consequences with solidarity and purposeful actions.

After all, across the globe, Covid-19 is the key battle of the day. In light of this, some of the unimportant quarrels and divisions we have been fabricating are wastefully depleting our collective energies, which we should collectively deploy to fight Covid- 19 and its socio-economic consequences. Agitation and division have never been solutions to the challenges facing a nation. When we say we have heard you and your concerns are receiving attention at the highest level, the elected Government means it. How do we rise beyond a culture of always wanting to think of ourselves in lesser terms and always lacking in something? Should we talk about ourselves in headlines and with loudspeakers only when we don’t do well? How do we transcend the Afro-pessimism and inferiority complex imposed by a century of oppression, a period during which we existed as lesser beings? These are not new questions.

The Cameroonian scholars, Achille Mbembe and before, Mongo Mbeti have dealt with some of these post-colonial questions in different ways. What is required and what are the resources needed? We may not have full answers to these questions, which require national pride and the reconstruction of hearts and minds. What is certain is that our understanding of critique is flawed and draws from the Apartheid mindset of humiliating the other and not affirmation of the other, which is far more liberating and progressive for a nation.

Irrespective of how you look at it, what we do know is the fact that countries that have done remarkably well, including Singapore and Switzerland have mastered the art of telling their own story in positive terms. The World Economic Forum says that we have the best road network in Africa. We have an improved business environment (Mo Ibrahim) and the freest press in Africa (RSF). There are many positives that we must advance as Namibians and not because others say so. But because we are know that we are doing well in certain areas relative to our peers.

The point is, our narrative as citizens should not always be about fault-finding and being loud when there are shortcomings. A stronger nation emerges when we have the confidence to admit where we have fallen short as President Geingob did by telling the nation, “I have heard you” and we should undertake a journey of introspection in 2020 after 3 decades of freedom. A better Namibian nation emerges after a century of Apartheid and colonial ruin when we the citizens have the confidence to celebrate as free people our victories and successes.

Dr. Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari is the Press Secretary in the Presidency

This Op-Ed first appeared in the New Era newspaper on November 24 2020