How succession politics derails development in Afrika

Revelations in recent months show a trend of a minority of our population being pushed out by a few very wealthy political opulent society, anesthetised by unbridled consumption; the case of the SME Bank is a case in point.

The deliberate mismanagement of the fiscal duties of the bank, amplified by the apparent looting of resources at SME Bank by senior government officials, yet with no action on the part of the President to send a strong anti-graft message from government, only adds cannon-fodder that the State has become inept.

When citizens who had faith in the establishment of SME Bank read that this bank, which was meant to assist small and medium enterprises to get started in the formerly hostile and racist business market, loaned millions of dollars to Woermann Brock, even the most ardent cadres of Swapo simply shake their heads in disbelief.

Not to mention the difficulty of countenancing the growing influence of Chinese nationals, who front Namibian politicians. This state of unease is now being amplified by the puerile style of fighting for positions at the upcoming Swapo elective congress, an event that is supposed to cause the leadership to restore the constitutional discipline that Swapo had championed for decades, and steer the ship with honour and high regard for constitutional principles.

The saddest part is that without a strong Swapo, Namibia has no centre and things will fall apart.

Instead of pointing fingers at who is doing what to hurt Namibia, let us consider where we went wrong. Following are some pointers of where we went wrong:
One: Because we never really anticipated that we would become free at the time and in the manner we did, we were never really prepared to govern a free and democratic country.

Fighting the struggle became a career to many people and losing that left them rudderless and disoriented.

The scenarios we had in mind and taught in colonial schools and liberation centres such as the United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN) and many friendly degrees we were given in solidarity, all became un-useful after independence.

For instance, Swapo, like all liberation movements, prepared itself for a Marxist-Leninist or scientific socialist style of government – to the extent that our leaders understood socialism at the time. Come independence, communism was totally discredited and we were left with a capitalist system, for which we were not prepared.

All of a sudden the greed that Marx wrote about became the curse of leadership in free Namibia. Former communists are now landlords and owners of totally unproductive farms, (weekend farms) wholly wrapped up in wealth acquisition without the capitalist spirit of building from scratch, finding a niche area, problem-solving and philanthropy.

Two: In the understandable haste to become independent, we borrowed principles we thought were helpful to our cause, which turned out to be not as lofty, as we now want economic freedom for all. Part of this was our sort of naiveté on the land question when we adopted principles, such as the willing-seller willing-buyer approach, hoping that the former owners would have it in their hearts to give up their material riches.

Instead the formerly rich co-opted politicians in their hall of riches and continued like before, now with powerful politicians eating with them and black bishops praying before meals.

Three: We adopted national reconciliation uncritically. President Hage Geingob has said on a number of occasions that the bloated bureaucracy we have is due to the policy of national reconciliation. In essence, what the country needed was not reconciliation, but conciliation, namely building a nation from scratch.

Namibia became one nation only on March 21, 1990. You cannot reconcile parts that were not together before, just as one cannot reconcile a couple in marriage if they did not get married first. This policy was not seriously interrogated, because if it were, we would not be having the difficulties of former SWATF soldiers, who were not brought into the reconciliation equation. Our national reconciliation is only race-based and is, therefore, half-baked.

Four: At no point after independence did the nation embark on a serious ‘Namibia project’. What assisted the liberation struggle with all its challenges was the Independence project. It can be argued that of all the liberation leaders, it was Robert Mugabe who had a blueprint of a Zimbabwe project, which admittedly later went terribly pear-shaped. The fact remains that Mugabe understood what it took to build a nation, where citizens were prepared to survive better than before, and anywhere in the world.

Mugabe gave his country an education system, such that the most educated Afrikans on the continent today are Zimbabweans. Mugabe understood that education is the best equaliser and predictor of the future. His cabinet and especially those in charge of education were seriously educated men and women, who understood and valorised the enterprise of education. If we had a Namibia project, we would have been able to align and attune our resources to the wellness of the nation – not the party, not the tribe and the other things that are now tearing the nation apart.

Five: We have succumbed to the pornography of political power, where politics is everything. The sum-total of this failure to appreciate the bigger picture of running a nation is that we forget that politicians understand only politics and nothing else.

In our Namibia today there is a great mismatch. Those who have power have no ideas, and those with ideas have no power – and the two never meet. No nation has been developed by politicians. Political leaders are there to create an environment for creativity, innovation and problem-solving, all of which belong to the world of ideas.

Six: We have never quite understood the workings of the State. Hence, many of our leaders – because of the numbers of meals they have per day – think that the ruling party is bigger than the government and the government bigger than the State. If we understood how the State works, we would be raising national symbols now that unite us, instead of political party symbols that can only divide us.

It is this disease that allows Donald Trump to say Afrika must be recolonised, so that its leaders can learn that nations are bigger than themselves. In our case state houses become personal toys of the occupant at any given time. This is not sustainable and, hence, we end up bickering about peripheral things, such as who said what about whom, instead of governing the nation.
To be continued…