On Sunday, many of us woke up to the momentous and tragic news of the death of president Hage Geingob.
The natural thing to do under the circumstances is to check our media, especially Namibia’s broadcasters.
It was surprising that the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), our national broadcaster, had little to tell us.
All we saw on NBC was running text on the president’s death on the bottom of the TV screen which Al Jazeera was running.
It was not what we expected. We wanted our own stories and local breaking news.
From around 05h00 to 07h00 there were no live updates fronted by broadcasters, except for an earlier and repeated statement by then vice president Nangolo Mbumba.
Where was the NBC? Why was nobody on air?
If the news about president Geingob’s death was announced at around 03h00 or 04h00, surely the NBC needed to approach political scientists, law experts, and constitutional scholars to tell the Namibian public what to expect.
Many of us waited for three, four or five hours in front of our TVs for more information.
We wanted the NBC to tell us something, anything. We wanted updates. But our wait, at least until 07h00, was in vain.
There was no news. It was agonising.
In this age of fast-moving news which gets updated on a minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour basis, we wanted tangible updates on NBC sites, WhatsApp, Facebook, and so on.
Why did it take so long?
Once the official statement had been made, we expected the NBC, as our national news outlet, to inform the public on what to expect.
We have seen from news media such as the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera that normal programming is interrupted, and a new programme is instituted in a matter of minutes to an hour.
Staff are brought in with urgency to fill the vacuum; documentaries about the life and times of the departed are loaded while other programmes are prepared.
The NBC left the nation hanging in limbo for hours and hours.
Our national broadcaster appeared to be caught napping as our republic mourned and wanted answers.
PREPARATION IS KEY
The NBC could have started preparations when the news of the president’s illness became public knowledge just in case the unexpected happened.
At the very least, there should have been discussions about what to do.
Simple things like footage of the late president’s life should have been prepared.
For example, we are told the British media were prepared and ready for 20 years or so for the death of their monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
That was only possible because they prepare, prepare and prepare. We must do the same.
Our sitting president and past presidents are old. Many other members of parliament and Cabinet are of an advanced age.
The NBC should be ready for any eventuality and have material prepared in advance.
THE WAY FORWARD
As a nation, we want to be informed continually and timeously.
Information is important. It provides reassurance to the nation.
We know it is the first time in Namibia’s history a president dies, sitting or not.
However, the vacuum we experienced on Sunday morning should not be allowed to happen again.
The NBC should be prepared to step up in a matter of minutes, or an hour at most, to start broadcasting and assembling teams of experts to enlighten us, inform us, and reassure us, when such incidents occur.
We know you can do better.
We appreciate how the NBC got Blanche Goreses to front the programme from around 07h00.
However, by 18h00 we had still not had documentaries and other footage about the departed president’s life and legacy.
The Namibian nation and the world were looking to the NBC to share news and insights related to our president’s death.
Thank you, NBC, for catching up later despite the slow start.
- * Seth !Nowaseb is a teacher. The opinions shared here are his own.
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