Of course, I have looked at this country through different experiences – the beautiful Sorbonne experience in Paris, my time at the UN in New York, including my teaching stint at the University of Cape Town (SA) and the enriching visiting fellowship at the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Uppsala (Sweden). Crucially, I will now try to provide in a strategic sense Africa-generated perspectives as Head of the South African Foreign Policy and African Drivers Programme at my new home, the South African Institute of International Affairs at Wits University, Johannesburg (South Africa). These experiences are usually enriching and formative of my written engagement and approach to Namibia and Africa in the world.
I do not pretend to solve problems, but my hope as a writer has been and is that of trying to understand the challenges we face as a country, and the primary role of leaders in dealing with them in a fast-evolving global context. It is therefore in the spirit of critical questioning that I had tried to approach both the two most important political offices and political personalities in the land – the President and the Prime Minister. Taking this approach compels me to be less interested in the person of the President or the Prime Minister of the republic. But it certainly leads me to dedicate an inordinate amount of ink and time on the decisions they make, the manner in which they act and relate to the offices they hold. At no point did I seek to be involved in a personal feud with a private citizen because the latter is incompatible with public office. To seek privacy demands that we seek private lives and not the taxpayer-funded public life of elected officials in high office. Therefore, as elected individuals, they should be open to account, to explain and justify their decisions and actions.
Our Prime Minister, who at this point in time is Nahas Angula, ought to be an extraordinary man, both in terms of conduct and deeds. Importantly, the office he holds demands that he carries himself with decorum and integrity. In the same vein, his public pronouncements and interventions should be elegant and dignified, as he ought to represent the best of Namibia and Namibians. I had intoned in previous conversations, including this one, that the Prime Minister is not an ordinary citizen, and his engagements in public life, including newspapers, should not be detached and indifferent from the challenges facing Namibians. The institution of the President and the Prime Minister has been created to provide solutions to the challenges facing the human condition in Namibia. As such, the person who occupies such an office would be deleterious and dishonest to choose what to be when he or she engages in public. After all, the Prime Minister has the power of office to shape the destiny of Namibians, which many ordinary citizens don’t have. It therefore deserves emphasis that when he engages Namibians, it should be in a manner that preserves the dignity of the office, while advancing the cause of the people.
When I raised the question as to whether we have the right Angula in Nahas Angula with regard to higher office, I sought to question and probe Angula’s desire to be President in light of the office he currently holds and his political journey in an independent Namibia. I was less interested in the opaque exile politics or the school he set up in Nyango while in exile. Namibians should also care less about the choice he made of not pursuing education in the United States or Europe when others were doing so. It does not make him original. After all, these choices don’t make him more or less competent for presidential office in a democratic republic. Also, I would be less interested in many aspects of his life, apart from the conduct that I observe in the execution of public office. Such conduct is in line with the expectations that we as Namibians should have with regard to our PM.
If the Prime Minister was displeased with what I had raised in my piece, I would have expected a response that is in keeping with the civility and nobility of the office he holds, and not the mean-spirited and vulgar response as it appeared in the pages of this newspaper. Namibians did not see civility, nobility and exemplary conduct from Nahas Angula. Nor did they see wisdom and sound engagement from a man in the evening of his life. Namibians expect a man who wants higher presidential office, to be patient, open-minded to critique, fair, respectfully engaging and indulgent with regard to what is said about his actions as a leader in public office. Namibians want their PM to speak and write about what is being done to build a world-class civil service, including how service delivery has improved under his watch. Unfortunately, Namibians did not see this in the piece by their Prime Minister. They saw venom, vengeance and vulgarity that do not speak to their aspirations for a world-class civil service. They saw meanness that is not in keeping with the reflexes of a Prime Minister, nor the language that should come from the pen of a man occupying such an important office. It is not up to me to question the person of Nahas Angula, but the media and writers should question and probe policy, including what public officials say and think in the public domain.
Without doubt, it is not a well-developed tradition in this country. For as long as those who think like Nahas Angula are in public office, such a probing tradition would amount to caricatured personal hatred. Outrageous comments and conduct by a President or Prime Minister in France or the United Kingdom could result in defeat at election, or worse, resignation or dismissal. A case in point, when Nahas Angula intoned that the children born in exile are the ‘true heirs of Namibian independence’, we ought to have contested such an assertion, for it dangerously accentuates the deep, but unspoken divisions we have in this country. In short, it pits Namibians against one another by creating different classes of Namibians – some groups being more entitled than others. This probing is not yet our tradition, but we should strive to build intelligent, accountable, responsible and progressive governance. This can only happen when the Prime Minister and other public officials and their policies and public pronouncements are objects and subjects of daily and weekly analysis. Importantly, the responses to these media reports and analyses by leaders ought to be well-conceived and responsible, instead of the callous and toxic responses that Namibians saw from their Prime Minister recently.
* Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari is the Head of the African Drivers Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs, based at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.