…it is a time to be sensitive and sincere

We are disappointed at the ill-considered ‘party’ that was held to celebrate the SWAPO 60th birthday. We are fine with the ruling party rightfully applauding its 60-year history and its future in power in Namibia. But, during a COVID-19 pandemic, a state of emergency and an extended lockdown where people are being herded into their homes, forced to stand distances apart in queues to buy bread, and watch their financial futures crumble, the ruling party -led by the President himself- is having a grand old time, at a party with a lovely cake. This cannot stand.

The people who can ill-afford any dip in their subsistence income, are being slammed.

Citizens are laying in their beds at night scared that they have no jobs to come back to when the lockdown is lifted.

Tens of thousands in ‘non-essential’ service jobs are facing unemployment, delayed pay, cut salaries, and changed job descriptions. Now is the time for real leaders to shine and give confidence and reassurance. Leaders must LEAD by example.

Instead, what do we see? The National Broadcaster (nbc) and photographers were invited to film and shoot what could be considered as an illegal gathering of more than 10 people. All present were in close contact, laughing and acting as if everything is wonderful.

We can only point to the world health experts for guidance on COVID risks. They are consistent and clear that those 70 years old and above are in the HIGHEST risk category for not only contracting the virus but dying of it. With our president as an Octogenarian, alongside our iconic and most valued national treasures Founding President Sam Nujoma (90) and Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba (83), we need to ask whose idea was it to expose them to this disease. Is no one thinking?

The 60th SWAPO birthday could well have been commemorated with only president Geingob. He could have entered a room, made a rousing speech and cut the cake. A single cameraman could have filmed the Founding President at his farm. His Excellency Nujoma could have offered the people inspiring words of hope. He could have told old stories of the history of the party. The television station could then have screened a historical documentary on Namibia. DONE and DUSTED.

A public, hugging ceremony of 60 years of SWAPO could have been scheduled for Africa Day, later in May.

The huge and unnecessary inaugural event on National Day was bad enough. There were over 400 people breathing germs all over each other when the rest of us were told there was a State of Emergency due to a communicable virus. That high-handedness in dealing with the lowly public was bad enough. Now, here we are with a SWAPO celebration while some of our people will face starvation in 30 days.

Namibian leaders cannot make great speeches and ‘rules’ merely for the benefit of foreign development partners. We are begging money and materials from them and are saying the ‘right things’ to get what we need. But, in our leaders’ hearts, do they think the steps against COVID-19 are bullocks?

We are sadly concluding that either our leaders do not really believe in the virulent nature of this disease OR, they think that the world is overreacting and it is not so bad, OR they think that COVID-19 is repelled by red, green and blue shirts and dresses. Neither of these scenarios are a good thing.

The situation compels the question: Why did the government extend the lockdown? If the leaders of the country do not believe it was necessary for Namibia such that SWAPO could hold a public party, then what is the point? Just forget the lockdown and do your thing. That is the signal being sent by every single person that attended the SWAPO 60th birthday party. It is a WRONG message – we must adhere to the medical requirements. ALL must do this, even SWAPO leaders.

Leaders must always know that perception is truth in the minds of the public and act accordingly. That is why being a leader is so difficult. The government immediately quashed the nbc footage of the party. That can indicate that someone wised-up, albeit too late, that holding that party was a huge mistake at this particular and special time.

An apology/explanation/clarification is required.

Those who are advising the leaders involved in the party debacle are not doing their jobs. During a national crisis like this, we need a united, strong, committed and concerned image of those elected to lead. We don’t need photos of handshakes and gaiety by those in charge while so many ordinary people are crying in their pillows in fear of the future.