When we admire someone personally and recognize their achievements, objective political analysis of what they say is a challenge. Such is the case as we ponder the nbc interview by the distinguished Former President of Namibia, Hifikepunye Pohamba that aired on Monday.
The Former President defended the Founding President. His defense regarding the startling adjectives used by Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi was not unexpected. There have been condemnations from a line of Swapo wings, supporters, and leaders. He gave one more.
Pohamba emerged from retirement to defend power, but not the pleas of the poor. This is a disappointment. He did not plead for the government to do more. He did not ask Geingob why the Mass Housing Project sites were left unfinished. He did not mention the fishermen who lost their jobs due to Fishrot. He defended the deteriorating status quo.
Speaking bluntly, no one is thinking about the Founding President when food is not on the table. Nujoma, one of our greatest Namibian heroes, is the past. The viable solutions to the huge problems Namibia faces lie in the now. The new normal for Parliament and everywhere else will be that angry, frustrated masses will demand their say on any subject. They may not fit previous methods of doing so.
Hundreds of thousands live in tin shacks, with insufficient access to clean water. Government services are non-existent for many. Unemployed citizens are freezing in the winter night’s air and they couldn’t care less about Nujoma; they are angry.
The distinguished Former President also spoke about his unsuccessful Mass Housing Program (MHP). This program was the centerpiece of his administration. Pohamba has his Mo Ibrahim award money and executive retirement package that includes a newly built luxury home at State cost. His justly earned benefits are completely untouched by the economic disaster that has put the country on its knees. His perspective, therefore, on the desperate plight of homeless, malnourished, cold, and underprivileged Namibians, is out of step.
He was speaking to a nation of people who have been retrenched, forced to accept half and quarter salaries, or who own businesses in distress. And yet, he says of his failed housing efforts that, “the housing program was a noble idea.”
We are interested for him to say why it didn’t work. What did he do to provide oversight on the housing program? Instead, he waves the white flag on his own housing program, while homeless people are angry about broken promises.
Namibian children and grandchildren are saddled with paying back the billions Pohamba borrowed for the MHP that did not work.
The Former President commended the current president for his government’s response to the pandemic in Namibia. The Pohamba interview aired just after the Swapo press conference. One can make a good case that the point of the entire effort was to applaud Geingob. Indeed, the public should show deserved appreciation to the Ministry of Health. But, that is not the last word on this topic.
People are angry when they imagine how many face masks, ventilators, and other protective equipment could have been purchased with the sinful amount of money allegedly stolen by the Fishrot gang. When a vaccine is found, will Namibia have the funds left after corruption, to buy it?
‘Fitty’s’ new multi-million dollar house could have provided funds to complete dozens of Mass Housing Project homes.
The 11 luxury cars owned by the accused could have provided enough for improved sanitation in schools in Kavango West. Those learners were sent home because the facility cannot be made safe during the pandemic. There are no funds.
Imagine if the loot passed on by the Fishrot lawyers went to provide N$750 to citizens in need.
SME Bank-rot board members are accused of receiving millions for their own personal use. What if that money were available to upgrade hospitals not just for COVID preparations, but for TB or expectant mothers?
How did we let things deteriorate so much in Namibia?
It has been said that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. In the first elections in Britain after World War II, Winston Churchill, who had led his nation to victory, was defeated at the polls. The voters saw that his leadership characteristics were great for war but were insufficient for rebuilding. Our leaders during the long struggle for freedom won the constitutional freedoms we all enjoy today.
But now, things are so far out of control with the implementation of viable programs free of corruption and waste. We must now consider that our great heroes during the liberation struggle, may not have been the right people to build a new nation in peaceful times.
The time for noble ideas is passed. We need solid solutions. The ship of state needs to be set on a better course pointing towards tomorrow, not yesterday.