Most Namibians love their country and do not divide their loyalty by ethnic, racial or tribal segments. They are proud Namibians. This is no less the case for us. But, when the members of boards, holders of high office and certain government job appointments, are only people from the Oshiwambo-speaking ethnic group, the playing field is uneven. This is a problem.
Those responsible for this problem know that giving jobs or appointments based on tribal origin is unfair (and illegal). But, there is an unspoken arrogant response in the air, “We’ve done this and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Rather than stand up for the constitution and a unified Namibia, President Hage Geingob has in effect, silently rubber-stamped inequitable rules. This stacks the deck in favour of the Ovambo.
We noted the list of newly appointed staff of the procurement board. This is one of the most powerful entities in the country. It decides the business fate of companies and jobs for tens of thousands. It is made up of people from the majority Ovambo ethnic group.
We look at the historical and current command and control positions in the Namibian military and police. They continue to be overwhelmingly Ovambo. We take note that the majority of the CEOs of SOEs are Ovambo.
The vast majority of the appointed Ambassadors have always been from the Ovambo ethnic group.
The Ombudsman has said that the handout of jobs to the so-called Struggle Kids outside of the job application process, is illegal. This directly disadvantages other desperately unemployed Namibians in our ‘unitary’ state.
Our reticent Prime Minister was the point person for the President and the Cabinet, defending this blatant favouritism for ‘struggle kids’. What kind of person defends the indefensible just to ‘follow orders’ to keep their highly paid jobs? Is there a conscience amongst our decision-makers?
Hage Geingob was elected to his first term in 2015 with a tremendous 87 percent mandate. People flocked to his banner back then. They believed him when he said the Namibian House would be open for all. Very quickly, the emptiness of that statement was clear.
Geingob’s bare 56 percent majority in 2020 is a public statement to him, refuting his intention or capacity to adjust a status quo. Rather, he has acted in ways that favour his own interests, the elite, businessmen who placate him and the Ovambo (his main voting base).
George Orwell in his book, Animal Farm wrote, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This applies to Namibia.
It is imperative that public service job, board, ambassadorial and military appointments and promotions are fair. They must be done based on credentials, interviews, references, performance and relevant CVs. But this is not happening.
Is the statement made by the appointing authority that only the Ovambo can be trusted with certain powerful positions? Is there a belief that only one ethnic group has what it takes to manage certain powerful posts? Does the appointing authority know that the above two propositions are incorrect? Does it lack the conscience to reject them?
It is unfortunate that after 30 years of independence, we are still debating whether the Ovambo ethnic group dominates leadership and power positions out of proportion to their population percentage.
We are still decrying special benefits like jobs available to ‘struggle kids’ and not to others. Times are changing and Namibia must change too.
In a unitary state, where we all shout “One Namibia; One Nation,” ethnic grouping must not be a major factor when merit appointments are made.
We would all scream foul if an SOE board were all white. And yet, we see many boards in the private sector that are, shamelessly pale and male. This is racism and sexism from commercial companies earning millions from doing business with the Swapo-led government and/or sales to the black majority.
No one could be blamed when looking at Ovambo-dominated boards, senior officers, high officials, and public commissions and feel similarly offended.
A government for the people and established by the people must represent those people. Namibia must be for Namibians, not one ethnic group or another. If “One Namibia; One Nation has passed its usefulness,” then let’s stop saying it.