At 33, it is time to grow up

Consider this situation: your 33-year-old underperforming offspring is sleeping each night on your sofa, usurping the remote control, not delivering on promises and obligations, demanding that you feed and clothe him, borrowing money from everyone, occasionally doing good things while having braai and beer parties with his circle of friends at your expense; it’s time for tough love.
Your man-child needs to grow up and deliver on his promises. It’s time to put his bags in the street, block his calls, end the free meals, stop making excuses for him, give him a final loving hug, and change the locks on the doors until he consistently delivers on his promises. As Independence Day 2023 approaches, the Namibian government is that beloved but inconsistent man-child who expects to be lauded as a hero even though he is painfully underperforming.
The sons and daughters of the soil whose blood was shed for independence must be respected on National Day and every day. Symbolically, we must lift a lager or tombo in their honor and say Hurrah! But each year, the government rolls out redundant speeches about what Independence Day means and uses platitudes and cliches to repeat unfulfilled promises. We’d bet that an address given on national day 10 years ago would echo one made 20 years ago and again one that will be made this year. The problems are consistent, as is a lack of adequate institutional solutions. Like the 33-year-old man-child used as a metaphor in this editorial, we cannot keep excusing consistent underperformances and overpromises in Namibian public service delivery, questionable zero-tolerance for corruption pronouncements, a turtle-slow justice system, horrific levels of unemployment, rising food prices and the lack of decent housing. These are problems lambasted in all Independence Day speeches over the years, but where are the solutions?
We all accept that there are international market forces that are outside of our control that impact the government’s finances. The decreased global credit rating and huge debt situation for the Land of the Brave are detrimental to government investment in economic growth in Namibia. There is no doubt that COVID, just like HIV/AIDS in years gone by, undercut the country’s health services and financial resources. But will National Day 2023 be another platform where speeches give lip service laments about poverty when the government does little to dramatically slash a bloated civil service that eats taxpayer money and a Harambee Prosperity Plan that has gone the way of Air Namibia and food banks? This year’s speech will blame as many failures as possible on COVID. Some of those attributes to the pandemic are true, while others are the same excuses for program non-performance in Independence Day speeches before we ever heard of COVID. And yet, the most frightening regurgitation of facts that will be repeated ad nauseam in Independence Day speeches will be something about the youth of Namibia.
Our leaders with grey hair and arthritic knees must accept that according to, possibly 65 percent of the population was born AFTER independence. Giving a speech with the same promises for positive changes as decades ago will not cut it. Recall that 53 percent (and rising) of the Namibian population lives in urban areas, and that includes an army of dissatisfied people under 35 years of age. Youth disillusionment is a ticking time bomb, and speeches will not diffuse it.
Today’s youth are not the same as the pre-internet youth of yesteryear or those that led the independence demonstrations and battles against the apartheid regime decades ago. These days, communications and information are their left and right hands. Cell phones and the internet are game changers, not empty mantras for a well-worn speech full of unfulfilled promises. Even low-income youth find the money to buy airtime to send texts and read online news as if it were the gospels, not of Mathew and Mark, but of Instagram and Tik Tok.
The youth have seen via a wide range of information sources about a better life, and they want it with no plan on how to earn it. One internet rumor could explode youth frustration about study loans, no places in schools, under and unemployment, rising taxi costs, no reproductive rights, and 1970s conservative or religious-inspired decision-maker opinions at the social and cultural level. They will vociferously form or join their own parties; we saw this in the last national election, and more of this will haunt future elections. Should the angry youth boil over, the crumbling of the political status quo will happen so fast that it will leave our struggle era leaders babbling while singing SWAPO camp songs for reassurance.
As we celebrate the independence of our beautiful Namibia, let us not join the wrinkled-faced, sunburned oppressors still amongst us who miss their decades past glory days of white supremacy. These independence haters scoff at the elected government’s errors while conveniently forgetting their racism, ineptness, wastefulness, cruelty, and ignorance when they ran things. They were defeated in the liberation struggle for a reason. We should always keep it real when discussing the importance of Independence Day.
People should take care before grumbling that nothing has changed for the better in 33 years—that is untrue. But increases in poverty and quality of life challenges after independence will always taint success. At the same time, the repeated fist-in-the-air ululations from those benefiting from the status quo must be rejected. It is insensitive to act as if most Namibians are not living in hard times as they struggle to pay bills and worry about job security.
We must make the 33-year-old man-child get off the sofa and grow up. He must stop making empty promises and get busy fulfilling the expectations that his mature age brings.

Related Posts