I therefore present to you this fundamental question: Is the demand for accountability from public office bearers of whatever age a sign of disrespect? We should remember that public office is all about accountability, responsibility and leadership whereas one’s private residence is the domain of that particular owner or family subject to the laws of common sense and moral expectation of society.
All of us are born in family households where we are taught African cultural values that include inter alia a sense of community life, good human relations, the sacredness of life, hospitality, religion, a sense of time, language and proverbs, how to respect authority and our elders as well as how to be polite to them no matter how wrong they may be.
In Africa/Namibia it is clear that being an elder is a status of leadership which comes with a lot of power and authority. However, even though the status of elders is at the top of the community’s hierarchy, such leadership is legitimate only if it exercises its power in the interest of those who are governed and according to the dictates of the customary law.
An elder who acts against the law is subject to sanction.
What I want to explain here is that, when the youth, especially that of the SPYL [Swapo Party Youth League] speak and challenge the leadership that should not be equated with disrespect.
Moreover, the SPYL is at the point where it has never been before, whereas some former liberation movements are struggling to remain in power, in Namibia, Swapo is the gospel to most young people, including those born after independence in 1990. It is SPYL that has mobilised the educated and the uneducated youths out there to love Swapo. Musicians who are youth went as far as performing for free besides their hardships in the music industry so that Swapo maintains her majority status.
When we say the technological revolution belongs to the youth we are not disrespecting the elders. In America when you talk of Facebook it’s not about George Washington or George Bush but Mark Zuckerberg; and American elders are happy and proud of this boy. It is not disrespectful to remind our politicians that they are not the sole elders because in our rural and urban poor areas there are thousands of elders languishing in poverty. They do not have access to joint-ventures, company shares, fishing quotas, flying first or business class at the expense of taxpayers like many politicians do. This too is not disrespect to point it out. Namibian youth, especially in Swapo, should be allowed to question why we are not benefiting from our resources, why we are not being sent to universities of our choice at government cost… Questioning these issues is patriotic and not in bad taste.
In the final analysis, when we discuss and articulate issues its not because of disrespect but a reflection of the effects of the deep love we have for our Namibia and Swapo! African culture does not disallow young people from speaking out against their elders with respect.
To expect us to keep quiet is like expecting Catholics to keep quiet if, for example, the Pope one day decides to burn the church because he is the founder.
Imms Shawanametiti ya Nashinge
SPYL Secretary for Economic Affairs