This Wednesday, 25th November, Namibians will vote for regional councils and local governments across the country. I would not be so presumptuous as to tell you who to vote for.
However, I will say this: vote for someone who you think will change the status quo.
Namibia can’t afford any more ‘business as usual’.
We need leaders who challenge the rule of women by men at home, and the continued dominance of a few extremely wealthy (white) Namibians (and their few black friends) in business.
We need city, township, and village leaders whose first thought is ‘what will the homeless person think of my decisions?’ not ‘what will the local rich guy have to say?’
These leaders might even be SWAPO representatives, even though the party as whole seems to have a lot of work to do in re-becoming the revolutionary organization it once was. Organisations such as AR Namibia and the Landless People’s Movement portray themselves as champions of change, but I would also encourage voters to take a long hard look at the track records of those who appear on their party lists.
I want a Namibia that does things differently. One that leverages the sources of national wealth to provide for all its people. One where we get outraged when people are treated badly. One that treats women and children with kindness, not bullying. Hopefully we will vote for leaders who have these things in mind.
People protesting about gender-based violence, of getting angry about brutality in defence of wildlife by the Botswana Defence Force, make me happy in a way, because they show that Namibians are not lying down and accepting bad treatment any more. Hopefully we will vote in a way that reflects this newfound lack of tolerance for nonsense.
Let’s go to the polls and look in candidates’ manifestos for game-changing policies. By ’game-changing’, I mean small changes that make a big difference, whose effect is seen down the generations.
The establishment of a National Health Service in the UK in 1948 was a game-changer. Over the years it provided free-at-point-of-use health care to the entire population, to the point where this year, when the Prime Minster himself got sick with Coronavirus, his life was saved by a public, NHS hospital.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in the old Soviet Union were game-changers in Russian society, even if they did not pan out as their originator planned. Without them the world might still have a ruinous cold war, or even a nuclear war between ‘East’ and ‘West’.
Some of the SWAPO government’s decisions in the early years of independence were game changers, too.
Affirmative action in the then largely white civil service, the establishment of two brand-new universities, tarred roads to Luderitz and Katima Mulilo, making rape within marriage against the law: these small things made a big difference.
Maybe I am wrong, but I worry that the current government lacks any game-changing ideas.
Stationing a social worker to work with every police officer investigating a rape case, ensuring every Namibian adult has a guaranteed plot of land, cracking down on tax evasion by mines and banks and large corporations, requiring every business that gets a government tender to have a rural school as 50% shareholder – all of these are examples of possible game-changing solutions.
There may be others. Who knows? I am not a candidate, even though I may enjoy drawing up 14-point plans as through I were.
Once again, I am not telling you who to vote for. What I am saying is, get out and vote. And vote for change and for what benefits yourself, your family and the nation, not out of ‘loyalty’ or ‘tradition’.
See you at the polling station!
Hugh Ellis is a Namibian citizen and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication of the Namibia University of Science and Technology. The views he expresses here are personal views. Follow Hugh’s blog at http://ellishugh.wordpress.com