Disagreement is NOT a personal attack

Jackie Wilson Asheeke

I have much respect for the intelligence and openness of Presidential Press Secretary Alfredo Hengari. But, in reading his last missive in defense of the president, I am disappointed. He included a section where he seems to say that the massive loss of public support for Geingob in the last elections was due to biased media reporting. I strongly disagree with that conclusion and hold up a hand of caution.

It is one thing to defend your boss to keep him sweet. It is quite another thing to assign blame to the media because he dropped significantly in support levels at the ballot box last December. To even hint that ‘poor’ or ‘unfair’ media coverage or ‘an anti-Geingob agenda’ was the reason for this, is a dangerous thing.

The current president needs to soberly, clearly examine why he fell so far from the favor of the people he claims a mandate to lead. In looking at that loss of support and basing new policies, new approaches, and new ideas on closing that gap, the country can unite around his efforts. Casting aspersions on the entire 4th estate for writing things Hengari feels are insults to his boss, is not productive. In these COVID-19 and rough economic times, we need to work together now more than ever to get information out to save our people’s lives and health.

By ignoring things the president did wrong during his first term, one is unable to seek relevant solutions. Problems must be faced, head-on, even if they are painful, to find remedies. It is like having a black eye covered in bandages that no one wants to lift up and diagnose. So, the medical treatment given is for a sore toe.

Before pointing fingers at others, examine yourself first. Admit errors, apologize, make corrections, and deliver on promises. That is the productive path towards solutions. All too often, people who do wrong things, point to others who they accuse of also making errors, as if that is an excuse for their choices. Each of us must OWN our errors.

There is a reckless and inane demagogue in the White House in Washington, DC. He says that anyone who prints anything that he doesn’t like is, “bad, very bad” and anyone bows before him, kissing the hem of his pants is “a good person, a great guy.”

We recall many presidents standing for election in various parts of the world saying that, “If I don’t win, then the election was rigged.”

So many leaders fall into the trap of applauding, any position that agrees with their own. Then, they lambast any fact, statement, research, or evidence that is not from their point of view.

Group Think and Herd Mentality are dangerous in national policy-making – leaders must be very careful in this. Otherwise, they could guide their people right off the closest cliff and onto the rocks. All the while, people all around are shouting warnings.

Is the press secretary saying that our president is so weak and insecure that anyone criticising Geingob is seeking to destroy him? I beg to differ. I think the president is a seasoned, elderly politician who has been around the block (and then some) many times. He knows that public life means public criticism. That comes with the massive luxuries and perquisites of high political office. At the same time, it is a part of the headaches, heartaches, dilemmas, hurt feelings, and tough decisions that come with that office too.

The Hengari defence of a capable leader like Geingob is misplaced in the middle of a national State of Emergency.

He should have simply celebrated the high world press freedom ranking for Namibia. Instead, Hengari says, “See, you tried to tear Geingob down as a person and yet, the world says that the Namibia he leads has the best press freedom in Africa!” This sentiment is petty and doesn’t do the esteemed press secretary any reputational favours, particularly at this time.

Rather than throw shade, let us move on to tackle the post-COVID-19 re-opening of the economy, Stage 2. Much needs to be done. Media and government can work together to get information out quickly and not waste space on frivolous spats.

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