SPORT DIPLOMACY: MODEL FOR A FUTURE NAMIBIA
• By Mathew Hiwilepo
THE jostling for the plum position of Swapo Party Vice President is expected to intensify in the days before the opening of the SWAPO Party 7th Congress slated from the 25th – 27th November 2022.
One can comfortably surmise that, invariably, one topic that took a back seat as the candidates pitched their credentials to the congress delegates was sport development. Sport can be a social, cultural and political force for fostering relations through intercultural communication, development and strengthening social contacts. It is therefore an extremely useful tool for anyone who is involved in cultural relations.
Sport is capable of making the art of the impossible, possible. It has a universal appeal that crosses the barriers of language and culture, providing an opportunity for people, cities and countries to make connections. Sport develops the feel-good factor. In Namibia, it helped to form relationships in an informal setting and break down socio-economic barriers. sports with its universal appeal reaches people of all ages, genders, faiths, cultures and social status. This fact alone makes sport a valuable tool for development work
One of the candidates for the SWAPO Party Vice President position is our current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (MIRCO) hers truly Hon. Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah.
It is prudent to assess Namibia’s policy on international relations and cooperation with regard to fostering sport diplomacy during her tenure as Minister responsible for International Relations and Cooperation. Namibia’s policy on international relations and cooperation is based on a sober and generally realistic assessment of the country’s capabilities and development needs.
How has Namibia fared in fostering sport relationships with other nations? This question is vital to understand or project what to expect under a possible Netumbo future administration with respect to sport diplomacy.
During the tenure of Hon. Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah as Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Namibia concluded and/or renewed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) on sport development with Tanzania, Botswana, Cuba, Senegal, Japan and Germany (Westphalia). By entering in this agreements Namibia clearly positions herself as a key proponent of sport diplomacy and if we agree that this is the yardstick by which our intention is to be measured then one is tempted to conclude that Hon. Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah has surely excelled in this area.
Such assumption is arrived at on the presumption that the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation spearhead the process/es that would normally culminate in the signing of the MoU’s.
Hosting of international sport events continue to mediate estrangement amongst people and their governments by promoting intercultural understanding and cooperation. Sport events are useful because both the people and their governments (politicians) can be reached through their love for sport. As a consequence, international sport events can also improve relations both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Therefore, perhaps the biggest feather in the cap of Hon. Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah’s during her tenure at MIRCO with regard to fostering sport diplomacy has to be the decision by the Namibian Government to bid, jointly with Botswana, for the rights to host the 2027 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). There is no better vehicle to entrench sport diplomacy than the deliberate attempt or strategy of hosting major sport events so on this score again Hon. Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwah is best placed to further expand on this successful trajectory.
MIRCO under the capable hands of Hon. Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah continue to use the diplomatic assets to the fullest. Sport has played an important role in this process because of its universal popularity. This was evident from the global recognition bestowed to Namibia following Christine Mboma’s success at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. In terms of foreign policy tools, sport Namibia has proven to serve as an instrument to wield soft power internationally. As Nelson Mandela once stated, “Sport has the power to change the world, to inspire and to unite people in a way that very little else can”.
Hon. Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah clearly comprehend the notion that power is not a given and can only manifests itself when the nation understand how to leverage sport correctly to achieve the objectives associated with it in the first place. Hon. Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah is indeed a true flagbearer for sport diplomacy and development. Sport diplomacy shall indeed be a model for a future Namibia under the Netumbo administration post 2024.