Waste Not, Want Not, Fly Not

Former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica

Namibia’s leaders could learn a thing or two from former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica, who shunned extravagance and opted for a lifestyle that mirrored the society he led.

“I think the ideal way of living is to live like the vast majority of people whom we attempt to serve and represent,” Mujica, who was known as the World’s Poorest President, once said of the role of being a president.

“I can’t stand waste, useless spending, wasted energy and having to live squandering stuff,” he said.

“I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it’s not enough for others. For me, it is no sacrifice, it’s a duty.”

These words should resonate – hopefully – with Namibian leaders who urge Namibians to tighten their belts as the financial crisis keeps biting.

While delivering his reflections on the past year at State House this week, Geingob commented on the issue of S&Ts, which saw him receive more than N$3 million last year from travelling.

“You see how I am standing here because I am not feeling well, and now you tell me I want to travel,” he said.

“I have been travelling since the 1960s. Even this plane of ours is too small and every time it shakes, I have to hold on to something. You think I’m enjoying that? What is S&T? I have been working for a long time and I resigned and came back (from the US) because it’s not an issue of money,” the president said.

Nonetheless, we still believe that the practice of giving the president S&T allowances like the N$3 million he qualified for last year is extravagant – especially as the government already funds his living expenses, including food.

It’s a pity Geingob was dismissive about an issue as serious as the use of S&Ts which, overall, gobble up more than N$300 million of taxpayers hard-earned money.

That approach sends the wrong message, especially when ministers such as higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi have been accused of basically using parastatals to fund their trips and to provide them with pocket money.

This in a year that Geingob branded a ‘Year of Revival’.

Many of our government offices have already exhausted their travelling budgets. More than that, they have managed to do so five months before the start of the new financial year.

This in a year that demanded financial prudence from those elected to serve the people for whom many 2023 has been a year of survival.

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