I wish to use this platform and opportunity as my contribution to the political, economic, and social discourse in Namibia. Particularly important as political parties are campaigning and voters deciding which political party will bring us 5 years closer to realising Vision 2030.
First, while I inspire and wish Namibia to be a developed country, we will never reach our aspiration under the current political arrangements in Namibia, particularly with Swapo being the driver of Vision 2030 vehicle. Swapo is not in alignment with the principles of good governance and democracy in light of the 21st century. Amartya Sen describes development in his book titled “Development As Freedom”. I will argue and advocate independence for Namibia as to the advancement of people’s lives and various freedoms. The narrow view of development as physical structures, be it buildings, railroads, ports, monuments, GDP, should be discouraged and abandoned. Development should enhance people’s lives through economic, social, and political activities that promote healthier living conditions of the majority. Today, the majority of people are chained in poverty - clean water, good education, higher standard of living, and gainful employment is still an unfulfilled promise and dream of the majority of our population. Swapo has to be awakened from the pre 1990 ideology and propaganda and should stop treating other parties as enemies of development in Namibia. Swapo already has enough enemies that are winning: HIV, poverty, malnutrition, poor education, inefficient and ineffective government, higher unemployment, and the list is endless.
Swapo has a lack of clear understanding of what development should be in light of enhancing people’s wellbeing in various forms. I recommend that all comrades read the book above. In addition, the general population’s attitude towards social, economic, political discourse of the country is completely absent in the tool kit that will deliver us to the promised land, Namibia in Year 2030. Vision 2030 says that we will be an “industrialised or developed” nation by 2030. If we had competent economic, social, and political commentators, the majority will tell you that it is extremely unlikely.
Also, if you are part of the current beneficiaries, you may want to agree with the current political arrangement and establishment in order to survive. Personal survival, a lack of decency and civility in our leaders, particularly in government and all its entities is one of the major factors that will keep us going backwards. Swapo is yet to be transformed from a liberation movement to an organisation that is relevant to economic, social, and political development in light of the 21st century and global perspective.
As Amartya Sen elegantly argues, independence has to viewed in terms of the advancement of people’s various freedoms. Our independence has so far failed, and there is no indication that we are taking a different course. The narrow view of Swapo party and its leadership of what development means and should be will not take us to Vision 2030. The election manifesto of Swapo from 1989 with its current leadership need to take a back seat and we urgently need new leadership and direction in Swapo. The Swapo youth is just a wing of the party where future leaders of Swapo are being fed the outdated Swapo ideology and slogans of the struggle against South African occupation and apartheid. Independent leadership is hampered within Swapo by poor politics within the party under the guidance of comrades who never disagree. Swapo has to be decentralised before it will be able to effectively and efficiently implement the program of decentralisation.
The Swapo leadership has to acknowledge and recognise the three eras that Namibia has gone through. The era of colonialism and imperialism, the era of South African occupation and apartheid system, and the current era of post independent Namibia. The courage that Hendrik Witbooi, Samuel Maharero, Jakob Marenga, Rosa Kakurukaze, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo displayed during the bitter resistance to foreign domination and occupation is missing in our youth today. The Namibian population is currently preoccupied with the greed and ego that is being instilled into them by our education system from the primary to the tertiary education in Namibia. Education is supposed to enlighten and guide us in the process of unleashing our talents, intelligence, and humanity, and unfortunately education in Namibia is doing the opposite.
Our graduates are passive toward the political, economic, and social arrangement. They only want to wear and drive the latest trend and yet at the same time do not know anything about their materialism and consumerism. Our graduates stop reading books after their last exam before graduating to become passive citizens and continue to vote Swapo for giving them jobs. Intellectualism and the thirst for knowledge are missing. Our educational campus are just factories for future employees and not informed citizens that is a vital ingredient towards making Namibia a better place for all.
Our aspiration to be an industrialized nation should be revisited and completed scrapped from Vision 2030. We need to adapt short-term strategies, goals and objectives to lead us to Vision 2030. How are we going to reach Vision 2030 with a population that is dying of HIV-AIDS at an alarming rate? How are we going to reach our Vision with the civil servant workforce that is inefficient and ineffective? How are we going to realise Vision 2030 with leaders who are corrupt, and do not have a clue or the difference between Swapo Manifesto (propaganda) and the Namibian Constitution and documents of development. How are we going to be a developed Nation by 2030 with a poorly educated and illiterate population?
We don’t have the vibrant leaders who understand development beyond keeping Swapo as the only party that will bring change and progress in Namibia. Swapo doesn’t have the genuine desire to uplift the standard living of the Namibian society. The prime existence of Swapo, just as with many liberation movements in Southern Africa, is to be rulers forever. I am in the majority of humanity that denounce the apartheid and colonial legacy, however, it is ignorant if we fail to admit that South Africa left a reasonable good social and economic infrastructure. Swapo came to power ill prepared to lead the nation, depending on your understanding of the Namibia history and world events, it was inevitable that Apartheid was going to end. I am certain that it could have been by any political organisation. The idea that Swapo single-handedly brought independence and therefore deserve to be in power forever is completely wrong, and such mentality has brought misery in Zimbabwe and many countries in Africa.
The government claims that Vision 2030 was crafted with the participation of various component of our society, yet they keep singing that Swapo is the only party that should rule Namibia. Does the Swapo government seek participation for cosmetic reason and as a tool to beg for international donor money and handouts? If there is a genuine desire by Swapo for everyone’s input in the economic development of Namibia, than we need to see the following changes: We need to see the release of all presidential commissions’ investigation on many economic wrongdoings by various government agents. Public access to information should be opened. People in political, elected or appointed positions should declare their assets, business, and other interests.
The Namibian people are paying for the luxurious lifestyles of our political leaders yet they are denied information about the salaries, benefits and all the perks that people who are supposed to work for us enjoys.
This does not make sense, and in developed nations, people have access to any information about the activities of their government apart from information that is classified.
I have read Vision 2030, NDP 1, NDP2, and NDP3 many times, and it sounds like a great dream, and not relevant to the practical lives of many Namibians. We dream to become an industrialised nation, without first contemplating what “industrialised nation” means in the 21st century. Someone has to tell Swapo, unlike Swapo, the world has changed and continue to change.
It is clear that Swapo has not changed as a political movement. During their gatherings they still sing the songs that were engineered to fight against the brutal South African apartheid system with all its inhumane elements.
Swapo has not awakened from a liberation movement mentality and that has hampered progress towards development in economic, social and political terms.
To illustrate my view, again, according to Amartya Sen, development programs should enhance people capabilities to enjoy the various freedoms that development should bring about. Under the Swapo government, independence that was accompanied by ill advised economic and political reforms has only brought misery in the form of malnutrition, higher unemployment, increase in HIV, deteriorating civil duties and responsibility, corruption and abuse of the national resources, alcoholism, crime of various forms, electoral manipulation, and self enrichment under the disguise of Black Economic Empowerment, political and economic intimidation.
With failure to decentralise or a slow process, Swapo as a ruling party will not effectively and efficiently implement the decentralisation programme because of a lack of political will by the head office in Katutura and central Swapo leadership. Since there is no clear separation between Swapo as political movement and the The Government Republic of Namibia, we will not be able to see the central Swapo office relinquishing political power and leadership. Swapo controls every aspect of the political landscape in Namibia, from the school boards, town councils, to their dominance in the parliament and head of government.
The Swapo domination, like other” ‘liberation’ movements in Southern Africa, is not a result of excellent leadership. It is the continuation of the support that was build up during the liberation years. However, if history is correct, empires have fallen and continue to fall, and Swapo will eventually be recorded in that history together with ZanuPF, ANC, and MPLA to mention a few.
The government or Swapo for that matter will not take us to the promised Namibia that is free from hunger, starvation, unemployment, higher mortality, and inequality unless Swapo re-establishes itself as a democratic party and adapts to politics beyond 1990. The era of the struggle is gone, and we don’t have any enemy – colonialism and apartheid is gone.
I am afraid to say that, though we are politically free in general terms, the majority of the population is not free, and the freedom that independence promised them has yet to reach them. The majority of our population don’t have the opportunity to better themselves. The population of 2 million only has two higher education institutes. Access to good quality health infrastructure, or the consumption of required calories per day is only limited to a few. Is this the Namibia that Andimba Toivo ya Toivo went to Robben Island for? Is this the Namibia that our brothers and sisters died for? Is it the Namibia for which Hendrik Witbooi, Hosea Kutako, Samuel Maherero, Rosa Kakurukadi sacrificed their lives? Swapo and all its affiliated associations and the government replaced colonialism and apartheid with a new apartheid. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow as we are progressing towards Vision 2030, and there are no signs of closing the gap. Poor people, which are the majority in Namibia, continues to sufferia, while our politicians ignore and pretend that things as normal. We should not accept that poverty is a normal thing in Namibia and come to terms with it.
It should be our government and Swapo’s priority to fight poverty. Poverty denies people most opportunities to better their lives and families. Instead of calling other political parties and people as Swapo’s enemies, Swapo should have enough enemies already such as poverty, unemployment, HIV-AIDS, TB, Malaria, unsafe drinking water, illiteracy - the list is endless.
Namibia is ranked as the most highly unequal country in the world, and the general population seems not to notice this. Our politicians and leaders in government entities continue to reward themselves with highly salaries and untold perks and benefits.
This is a shame, shame on our National Assembly, National Council, and mostly shame on the Swapo government.
We need to abandon economic, social and economic policies and language that focuses on GDP, industrialisation and development, growth rate, and realign our programmes to focus on immediate issues such as education, health, good governance, good parenting, women empowerment, poverty, and unemployment.
Sam Nujoma should lead the way by doing the following: give 75 percent of his retirement package to the people and refuse the new office.
We need an act of parliament that will enable citizens and other organisations to have free access to all government information. Swapo needs a break from Sam Nujoma and the so called elders of the party and let new people and views image in Swapo. We need to see transformation within Swapo, and the Swapo youth leagues need to lead the way and stop becoming future fat comrades.
Note: Name and address provided, and this contribution has been edited. - Ed